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ECA Chief repeats call for debt cancellation to help Ebola-affected countries

In a statement delivered at the opening of the 26th Ordinary Session of the African Union Executive Council on Monday Jan. 26th, Carlos Lopes, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, (UNECA), called upon the International Financial Institutions to cancel external debts owed by Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The three countries have endured dramatic suffering as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease, Lopes told the meeting.

“The relationship of the three Ebola-affected countries with the International Financial Institutions is at a critical juncture as the imperative for debt cancellation is being discussed after our vocal case for it,” said Lopes, referring to the recently launched ECA report on Ebola, which pointed out that the alarmist projections were wrong.

“We could not visualize more than a marginal impact in the region’s performance, given the size of the three most affected countries being less than 1% of Africa’s combined GDP,” he said.

Lopes further said that the cancellation should not lead to lack of confidence
on these countries’ viability and credit worthiness. “The three countries face recognized unique complex development challenges which limit their ability to contain the EVD outbreak itself, while promoting economic growth, improved public service delivery, meet regular debt service payments and plan for economic recovery.”

According to Lopes the setback induced by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) exacerbates weak initial conditions, structural vulnerabilities and limited potential to sustain growth under widening fiscal deficits. As such, “external debt cancellation would offer the three countries a breathing space,” he said.

ECA’s earlier report raised the alarm on the risk of a rise in mortality of diseases not related to Ebola and also points out the wider impacts of the virus on the livelihoods of those affected. Educational systems, rising social stigma, unemployment, and decreased food security are some of the big issues that Ebola-affected countries must deal with, according to the report.

Executive Council Session was attended by delegations from UN Agencies, International Institutions, Ministers from African member States of the African Union, Partners and members of the Diplomatic Corps. Key personnel included, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Chairperson of the Executive Council.

Photo Caption: Carlos Lopes Speaking at the Exc. Council Meeting

Phto: AU

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