Covid-19: IMF approves emergency virus loans for Mali, Ethiopia

WASHINGTON, The IMF approved loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Mali and Ethiopia to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Washington-based crisis lender has stepped up its global financing efforts in recent weeks to help countries weather the coronavirus crisis.

The IMF board granted $411 million to Ethiopia on the Horn of Africa to help relieve the pandemic’s effects on its fast-growing economy.

The money will come from the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI), which allows nations to circumvent the lengthy negotiations usually needed to secure a full economic assistance program — time most countries do not have as they struggle to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant adverse impact on the economy and created urgent fiscal and balance of payments needs,” IMF Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang said in a statement.

The RFI money, along with $12 million in debt relief under a separate program, will help Ethiopia “address balance of payments pressures and create fiscal space for essential pandemic-related expenditures,” Tao said.

On the opposite side of the continent, Mali will receive $200 million to help plug the deficit created by government spending to blunt the coronavirus impact.

IMF Deputy Managing Director Mitsuhiro Furusawa warned the efforts to contain the pandemic were having “a large adverse impact on Mali’s economic growth and public health.”

“The authorities are taking measures to limit fiscal pressures through reprioritization of spending plans, but large additional financing will be needed to preserve macroeconomic stability and development gains,” he said in a statement.

The West African country’s disbursement was made under the Rapid Credit Facility, which is aimed at the world’s poorest nations and has been doubled in size to quickly dispense aid.

The money “will support the authorities’ response to the crisis, but additional support from the international donor community will be needed to mitigate its social and economic effects.”

Among the world’s poorest countries, Mali has struggled with insecurity caused by jihadists and ethnic clashes for years, with violence in the center and north occurring on a near-daily basis.

Large swaths of Mali remain outside of the government’s control, and experts worry the country is particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Source: NAM News Network