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Recovery in jeopardy -Konneh speaks on Ebola’s bang on economy

The Ebola outbreak spiraling through the Mano River sub-region  has ignited an unfathomable economic consequences on its wounded countries Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The trio just recovering from collapse.

Liberia’s Acting Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara M. Konneh said Thursday that efforts to recover from past trials, consolidate the dividends of peace and build a strong and diverse economy are in jeopardy in the wake  of the attack of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.

Addressing journalists in Monrovia Thursday at the Information Ministry, Konneh told journalists that “our nation and its people are going through a very difficult moment.”

He said the Ebola outbreak has significantly impacted economic activities throughout the country with domestic food production, mining activities, and the service sector all declining.

“Concessions companies have scaled down operations as expatriates depart the country for fear of contracting Ebola; public and private institutions have also scaled down operations in order to maintain the lowest possible head count of staff and thereby avoid close contact in workplaces,” the Acting Finance and Development Planning boss said

According to him, as a result of this bang of Ebola on the country’s economy, productivity in the various sectors of the economy is being adversely affected. The Liberian Finance and Development Planning chief also emphasized that this has resulted to lower revenue performance, while expenditure demand has increased.

“This deadly disease, therefore, threatens our continued post-conflict recovery process for sustainable, inclusive, and pro-poor growth,” he added. Acting Minister Konneh also told newsmen that “preliminary estimates indicate that real GDP for 2014 is projected to decline by about 3.4 percentage points to about 2.5 per cent from the 5.9 percent growth estimate earlier projected by the IMF.”

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“To mitigate the potential economic impact of Ebola on the Liberian economy, the Economic Management Team has submitted for the President’s consideration a number of measures, including austerities that would create the fiscal space for more investment into our fight against Ebola.

In order for these proposed interventions to work optimally, it is extremely crucial for all government agencies to accept cuts in their respective budgets and spending plans to ensure we mobilize the required resources to fight Ebola. This is a difficult pill to swallow for all of us; but we can all agree that the result will be well worth the strain,” he averred.

He continued: “We must ensure that the highest priority in Government spending remains the fight against EBOLA, which is contributing significantly to the economic slowdown and posing the greatest threat to the survival of our people. Every dime we invest in this fight, we will earn back when our economy recovers.”

Speaking further, the Acting Finance and Development Planning Minister said the total estimated financial requirement to address the national response was initially quoted at US$20 million dollars, but rose to US$34.8 million when all implementing agencies submitted their three-month budget. He noted that support to all health related interventions in this plan amounts to US$29 million, constituting 84% of the entire budget.

He disclosed that the Liberian Government began this process with an initial injection of US$5 Million, made possible through a short term loan from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).

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