Debt forgiveness for Ebola Triangle: UN recommends keeping borders open

The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Carlos Lopes called for the cancelation of national debts of Ebola Affected countries in West Africa. According to Lopes, this will give them a fighting chance at jump-starting their economies.
A new report on the Socio-Economic Impacts of the Ebola Virus Disease on Africa was released on Monday December 15 at the UNECA. It looks at the disease’s outbreak impacts both in qualitative and quantitative measures.
According to the report, affected countries are faced with slowing down of markets, lower activities for establishments such as restaurants and hotels, transportation companies as well as educational institutions.
While lowering the revenues of the affected countries, the outbreak has increased expenditures, mostly in the health sector, which the report states has put pressure on the fiscal balance and weakened the state’s capacity to contain the disease while supporting their economy at the same time.
According to data in the report, public revenue has fallen in the amount of tens of millions of dollars for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, which is a good share of these countries’ GDP.
“This reduction stems from slower economic activity and a contraction of the tax base in most sectors, notably industry and services. To that may be added weaker tax administration, so that fewer taxes are collected on income, companies, goods and services and international trade, as well as fewer royalties collected on the dominant natural resource activities,” the report reads.
It points out that lower public revenue has caused lower investment for physical and human capital development as well as other social areas. The outbreak has also shown a significant effect on domestic private and foreign investment. Governments in the three affected countries have reported delayed or suspended investments in major national projects.
The report suggests several recommendations for the three countries such as including social protection and safety net programs when devising fiscal measures; this will help families of victims of the Ebola outbreak and their immediate communities.
It also recommends that African Governments should reinforce border health checks rather than shut down borders, given the huge damage to economic activity that such closure entails, in affected and non-affected countries. It advices the three affected countries and their partners should engage in food aid efforts and emergency safety nets to address severe food shortages, particularly among the most vulnerable groups, such as children at risk of malnutrition. They should also provide special incentive packages to their farmers to help re-launch their agricultural sectors.
The three countries need to devise recovery contingency plans for quickly reviving their economies. This may require them to revise their medium and possibly long-term, national development plans, the report statesg