Ebola crippling economies of affected countries

Ebola is continuing to cripple the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and is projected to result in negative or contracting growth in these countries next year, the World Bank Group has said.

The Ebola Economic Impact Update released on Tuesday comes as World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim begins a two-day visit to West Africa to assess the epidemic’s impact and discuss with governments and international agencies what steps need to be taken to stop new infections as soon as possible.

This report updates the World Bank Group’s October 8 analysis of the economic effects of the Ebola crisis on the three hardest-hit countries.

GDP growth estimates for 2014 have been revised sharply downward since pre-crisis estimates which were:

  • 2.2 percent for Liberia (versus 5.9 percent pre-crisis and 2.5 percent in October)
  • 4.0 percent for Sierra Leone (versus 11.3 percent pre-crisis and 8.0 percent in October)
  • 0.5 percent for Guinea (versus 4.5 percent pre-crisis and 2.4 percent in October)

All three countries had been growing rapidly in recent years and into the first half of 2014.

In addition, the World Bank Group is now projecting negative growth for 2015 of -0.2% in Guinea and -2.0% in Sierra Leone.

In Liberia, where there are signs of progress in containing the epidemic and some increasing economic activity, the updated 2015 growth estimate is 3.0 percent, less than half the pre-crisis estimate of 6.8 percent. These latest projections imply they will miss out on income totaling more than $2 billion.

“This report reinforces why zero Ebola cases must be our goal. While there are signs of progress, as long as the epidemic continues, the human and economic impact will only grow more devastating,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.

“As we accelerate the immediate health response, the international community must also do everything we can to help the affected countries back on the road to economic recovery and development.”

Financial impact

Governments have been forced to cut public investments by more than $160 million across the three countries, hurting future growth prospects.

In October, the World Bank Group released a report that said that if the virus continued to surge in the three worst-affected countries and spread to neighboring countries, the two-year regional financial impact could range from a “low Ebola” estimate of $3.8 billion to a “high Ebola” estimate of $32.6 billion by the end of 2015.

These estimates of the scale of impact remain valid, given that the epidemic is not yet under control. Further progress toward ending the epidemic combined with a concerted effort to restart business activity and bring back investors could help these countries get back on their feet.

“The key to avoiding the higher scale of economic impact is not only to eradicate the existing epidemic, but also to invest in preparedness in neighboring countries,” said Marcelo Giugale, Senior Director of the Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management Global Practice at the World Bank Group.

“A full-fledged recovery effort could help the affected countries improve on growth estimates, and return to building their economies and reducing poverty.”

The World Bank Group is mobilising nearly $1 billion in financing for the countries hardest hit by the Ebola crisis. This includes $518 million for the epidemic response, and at least $450 million from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, to enable trade, investment, and employment in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Source: World Bank Group