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On Ebola, IMF Tells ICP Outlook Worsening in Liberia, Guinea & Sierra Leone

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- Amid the Ebola crisis and after the International Monetary Fund's $130 million commitment to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Inner City Press asked IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice for an update at the IMF's embargoed briefing on October 30.

  Rice said the outlook has worsened, with region-wide fall offs in travel and tourism. As to the three countries most impacted, there are "large financing needs likely for 2015."

  At the Annual Meetings earlier this month, the IMF met with the three countries' authorities, Rice said. "2015 is going to be a challenging year." If the outbreak spreads, it would have larger spillovers. The IMF, Rice said, is ready. We'll see.

  Also during the October 30 embargoed briefing, Rice said that the IMF's Article IV visit to Egypt will be November 11, under Chris Jarvis.

 Rice was asked about including "illicit activities" - drug trafficking and prostitution -- in Gross Domestic Product data but did not answer; Feature News asked about Ghana (on which Inner City Press had submitted this question: "On Ghana, does the IMF have any comment on the October 28 launch of the “Civil Society Organization Platform on the IMF Bailout to Ghana”? Will the IMF meet with the group?")

 On Ebola back on August 28 Rice told Inner City Press that the IMF was working on the ebola crisis with the government of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.  Later came the $130 million commitment.

  While most questions on August 28 concerned IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde being under investigation -- she will brief the IMF Board “very soon,” Rice said, calling it “highly unlikely” it would be on August 29 along with the Board's meeting on Ukraine -- Inner City Press also asked about Yemen, Ghana, Pakistan -- and ebola, IMF transcript here:

Has the IMF produced any estimates of the impact of the ebola crisis? Any IMF responses to it?”

  Rice read out the question, then said that ebola's "acute impacts" are “macro-economic” and social, hitting three “already fragile” countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). He said "growth is likely to slow sharply in all three cases" and significant financial needs will rise: "increased poverty and food insecurity" and impacts on employment in the key agricultural sector.

  Rice concluded, "We are actively working with all three countries to prepare... additional financing that may be required."

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