HOPING THE BEST-PREPARED FOR THE WORST

Individuals infected by the Coronavirus potentially face a blow to their health and personal and economic-wellbeing.

Similarly, countries hit by a sudden and unexpected public health emergency- as Coronavirus is proving to be- can see their economies slow and their budget squeezed as they spend more to counter the impact of the virus. At the same time, they may experience a drop-in revenue from falling economic activities. Countries could also face lower export revenues due to falling tourism receipts or a decline in commodity prices. A sudden halt in capital inflows could make the situation even worse. Together this can result in urgent balance-of-payments need to counter the mismatch between foreign exchange inflows and outflows. Even if an individual country is fortunate enough to escape widespread viral contagion, the spill over effects from global developments or broken supply chains may still lead to faltering economic activity.

While the physical impact of the virus will be tackled by health professionals, the IMF can help to mitigate the economic fallout from the Corona virus. In addition to the policy and technical advice, the greatest support the IMF can provide in such emergencies is through timely financial assistance.

When the Ebola virus devastated parts of Africa- and Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone suffered significant humanitarian and economic hardship- the IMF provided concessional emergency assistance of US $378 million to these three countries, a total of their 2.3% of their combined GDP.

Under the IMF’s two emergency financing instruments- the Rapid Credit Facility and the rapid Financing Instrument- Member countries can receive financing to respond to shocks, including large natural and health disasters. The benefits of these two leading vehicles are their size, their speed and their flexibility. In contrast to fund programs that provide financing over time, disbursements under these two instruments are one-off payments meant to cover an urgent balance of payments need and not subject traditional IMF conditions. The country has to only demonstrate that its debt s sustainable and make a commitment to economic policies that help overcome.

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