Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 April 2020:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday announced that Sierra Leone is among a group of 25 poorest countries in the World to receive IMF loan repayment suspension for the next six months, to enable these countries respond to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
This decision by the IMF comes amid calls for over $100 Billion of debt owed by African countries to be wiped out. China is one of the single largest creditors to Africa. As yet, there are no signs of China taking the debt forgiveness path.
In 2020 alone, Sierra Leone is projected to pay back about £30 million to the IMF. This is a monthly repayment of $2.5 million, that will help the government of Sierra Leone channel a total of $15 million of IMF grant in the next six months, to its coronavirus response programme, including the feeding of households and purchasing of medical supplies, especially Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for doctors and nurses.
Sierra Leone has so far recorded eleven cases of COVID-19 infected persons and has quarantined over 1,600 people. There are fears the number of new cases will soon start to rise in the coming weeks as the rainy season intensifies.
With the country’s economy now in reverse, over six million people are feared to be at risk of serious malnutrition, with possibly over one million facing starvation as the pandemic worsens.
Sierra Leone is losing over $100 million a year, following the government’s decision to cancel or suspend the mining contract of various companies.
This is what Ms. Kristalina Georgieva – the Managing Director of the IMF said in a statement yesterday:
“Today, I am pleased to say that our Executive Board approved immediate debt service relief to 25 of the IMF’s member countries under the IMF’s revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) as part of the Fund’s response to help address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This provides grants to our poorest and most vulnerable members to cover their IMF debt obligations for an initial phase over the next six months and will help them channel more of their scarce financial resources towards vital emergency medical and other relief efforts.
“The CCRT can currently provide about US$500 million in grant-based debt service relief, including the recent US$185 million pledge by the U.K. and US$100 million provided by Japan as immediately available resources. Others, including China and the Netherlands, are also stepping forward with important contributions. I urge other donors to help us replenish the Trust’s resources and boost further our ability to provide additional debt service relief for a full two years to our poorest member countries.”
The other countries that will now receive IMF debt repayment holiday are: Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, D.R., The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Togo, and Yemen.