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Ebola-hit west African countries press for debt cancellation
Presidents of west African countries struck by the Ebola virus have called for a cancellation of their debt to aid their economic recovery. As the number of Ebola cases drops, the focus is turning to helping rebuild broken healthcare systems and restarting business.
“Is this asking too much?” asked Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as she called for debt forgiveness during a high-level roundtable at the World Bank in Washington on Friday.
“We say no,” Sirleaf said. “Because a strong Mano River Union [Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea] can be a formidable force for recovery and resilience in the sub-region.”
Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma has already voiced support for debt cancellation, telling the Reuters news agency in an interview that “it will take us a long way forward in our transformation agenda”.
There was no immediate reaction from the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. However, the African Development Bank’s President Donald Kaberuka acknowledged that multilateral agencies could provide some “debt relief”.
“We need to provide them this debt relief, it’s not a lot of money and we can afford it,” Kaberuka said during the Washington meeting.
The combined debt of the three Ebola-hit countries is more than 3.1 billion dollars, according to the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa.
In a January 2015 report, the UNECA said that debt cancellation would give them “breathing space to better address the short-term economic and social challenge” which in turn would help put their “long-term recovery on a solid footing”.
Comment: Tim Jones, Jubilee Debt Campaign