The Finance Ministers of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have issued a joint statement in which they urgently called on the international community to scale up their response to fight the Ebola epidemic with a comprehensive support package including direct budget supports.
Ministers Mohamed Diaré, Amara Konneh, and Kaifala Marah
Following a joint discussion in Washington DC at the just ended Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, Messrs Mohamed Diaré, Amara Konneh, and Kaifala Marah, governors of the World Bank Group (WBG) for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, respectively said the support package should include major direct budget support to plug the gaps in “our heavily damaged public finances.”
The Ministers said without direct budget supports, the three countries risk of not being able to re-open schools, secure the livelihoods of millions of farmers and market sellers who have lost an entire harvest or protect the orphans that this crisis is leaving behind.
They acknowledged the three countries in the Mano River Union (MRU) basin have been the worst hit by the ongoing and unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), with over 8000 cases of infection and nearly 4,000 deaths so far recorded across these countries.
“We, at the outset, thank our international partners who have already committed finances, people and expertise to support us in responding to the crisis. But much more needs to be done and there is an urgent and immediate need for further resources to get a grip on the outbreak and prevent what is already a terrible humanitarian crisis from becoming a truly catastrophic one,” the Ministers said in their statement.
However, what started as a health crisis has quickly become a deep social and economic one. “Our fear is that without immediate and innovative action by our international partners the damage will be long-lasting and will have far-reaching consequences for the citizens in our countries,” the ministers’ statement said.
The Ministers furthered that projections of economic growth are being slashed and the World Bank has estimated that the GDP cost over for the three countries may be $1.2bn in 2 years alone. And with the very large informal sectors that make up “our economies the real impact on our people will be much worse than the numbers show. Further, we share a recent history of civil wars and instability that left our economies in a state of fragility, whose effects still remain. Consequently, the lack of an immediate and adequate response to the epidemic could further increase the fragility of our countries.”
The Ministers called on the international community to commit resources to fundamentally strengthen the health systems, the vulnerabilities of which have been painfully exposed by this outbreak; and that significant resources to enable critical investment and interventions over the short to medium-term, particularly in infrastructure, to ensure that “our economies do not merely scrape through this crisis but recover onto a path of much stronger and more inclusive and poverty reducing growth.”
The Ministers also called on the international financial institutions, including the IMF, to consider how greater flexibility can be applied in the implementation of our support programmes. They also agreed that a key objective in responding to the Ebola crisis and addressing its aftermath is to deepen their regional integration, including through a more harmonised approach to economic recovery.
“We therefore ask that our partners work together to support us in this goal,” the Ministers pleaded.
Liberia’s Minister Konneh, head of the Liberian delegation to the annual meetings andwho also initiated the meeting of the Ministers at the World Bank says: “Whilst the resources coming into our countries to battle Ebola are a lifeline, nevertheless the three affected countries are currently hanging by a thread. We urgently need our partners to help us to plug the holes in our budgets or else we risk economic ruin.”