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Ebola adversely affected economic growth in West Africa: IMF

WASHINGTON: Economic growth in Liberia and Sierra Leone could decline by as much as 3.5 percentage points as the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola has crippled the key mining, agriculture and services sectors in the two West African countries, the IMF said on Thursday.

Growth in Guinea, where industrial mining has been unaffected so far, could fall by about 1.5 percentage points, said Bill Murray, spokesman at the International Monetary Fund.

“Particularly in the cases of Sierra Leone and Liberia, the largest sectors of these already fragile economies … are being affected,” Murray said. “This is in turn engendering significant financing gaps for the fiscal and external accounts of these two countries, and triggering higher inflation.”

He said the crisis has exposed financing gaps totaling $100 million to $130 million in each of the three countries, and that the IMF is working with authorities to figure out additional funding. All three countries are already getting IMF loans under programs that predate the Ebola outbreak.

The IMF said economic growth in Sierra Leona is likely to fall to 8 percent from 11.3 percent this year, Liberia’s growth may decline to 2.5 percent from 5.9 percent, and in Guinea, economic output could fall to 2.4 percent from 3.5 percent.

“A large-scale and well-coordinated intervention by the international community is urgently needed to help bring the epidemic under control,” Murray said.

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are among the poorest countries in the region and the hardest-hit by the worst Ebola epidemic on record, which has killed nearly 2,300 people.

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