Via FrontPageAfrica: Costly Ebola: Liberia Economy Losing Millions, Finance Minister. Excerpt:
The world deadliest outbreak of the Ebola virus is taking a horrific and menacing toll on the Mano River Union sub-region, spreading across borders to east of Nigeria. Claiming over 800 lives to date, the virus has disrupted normality in various countries with Liberia and Sierra Leone now effectively under states of emergency.
Across Africa and the world, governments are moving fast to isolate communities affected to contain the spread and treat the sick. Today, the army and police began enforcing the quarantine measures by preventing people in affected counties from moving.
Police could be seen today returning travelers from Bomi and Cape Mount at the Klay checkpoint in Bomi County. Yet this is only the immediate task. The economic effects of this crisis will be felt long after the disease has been defeated.
To Investors: ‘Don’t Leave the country’
In a sobering interview, Liberia’s Minister of Finance, Amara Konneh pleaded with foreign businesses, investors and development partners who are leaving in droves to stay. "My message is, 'don't leave the country. Stay with us - let's fight this together'."
Whether Konneh’s call is heeded or not, the damage being inflicted on Liberia’s ailing economy is becoming clearly visible. The latest Ebola outbreak, the most lethal in history, has already killed more than 887 people across West Africa, 255 of them in Liberia.
Prior to the outbreak, the IMF had projected a 5.9% growth rate for Liberia but Amara Konnehdoes not see this projection realistic in the midst of a drastic slowdown of the economy especially in the transport and services sectors.
“We are scrambling for a response to this crisis. If it is not quickly contained, it will have serious consequences for our economy," Konneh told FPA.
"We are now working with the IMF on a new (economic) growth projection and should have it by the end of August." Data released by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning shows that Revenue collection over the last 7 days in July showed a significant drop averaging US$433,000 on a daily basis compared to an average daily collection of US$1.5million prior to the intensity of the fear of Ebola.
“Comparatively, last fiscal year July shows a strong performance of 10 percent above target in terms of revenue collection for the month while the current fiscal year underperformed by 6 percent compared to target. In previous year the last 7 days in July contributed 11% of the total revenue collected for the month while the current year shows just 8% contribution during the same period. The slow pace in revenue collection has since continued mainly due to the fear of Ebola”.
Though too early, current indications are that up to $12 million in government revenue has been lost since the emergency began, as far back as March 2014 and the country could still lose more when the dust shall have settled.
"This may be small money by international standards, but it's big for Liberia – it represents about 2 percent of our budget. If Ebola is not contained, it will have serious socioeconomic consequences for our economy and our people, "Konneh says.
‘Weak Domestic Demands’
Minister Konneh also sounds a candid message to all Liberians, “Let’s tighten our belts. Half of Liberia’s population lives in and around the capital, Monrovia. Now affected by Ebola, Monrovians have started to hoard essential items and save any spare money due to the fear and uncertainty caused by the outbreak.”
Konneh said that “weak domestic demand driven by consumers fear and uncertainty over the length of this crisis will certainly affect inventory and by extension trade volume, but these are early days and we are working internally with all our colleagues to calculate the extent of loss in this sector.”
In Monrovia, residents said the Ebola emergency, and the fear and suspicion it has generated, was disrupting daily life, affecting everything from food prices and transport fare.
“We need all hands on deck”, Konneh said, stressing that “a slowdown in farming and transport and reduced activity in Liberia’s major markets could push up prices of essential food items and other goods.”