The IMF is going back on a pledge made by the G20 to cancel debts of Ebola countries, after it demanded Sierra Leone repay $2.7 million last week. A further $1.75 million is to be paid by Sierra Leone to the IMF on Christmas Eve, and $1 million on 29 December.
On 16 November, the G20 announced that the IMF would “make available a further $300 million to stem the Ebola outbreak and ease pressures on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, through a combination of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants.”
However, over a month later, nothing has happened, with the IMF saying that it will be January at the earliest before any debts are cancelled.
Jubilee Debt Campaign, UK and the Budget Advocacy Network, Sierra Leone, are calling for the debt to be cancelled immediately to help in the fight against Ebola.
Abu Bakarr Kamara, Coordinator of the Budget Advocacy Network in Sierra Leone said:
“Between now and the 31 December 2014 we have to pay $6.2 million to just the IMF and World Bank. These resources would have been used to provide more protective clothing for our health workers, invest in social mobilization, build more isolation and treatment centres, train more doctors and nurses and subsequently help in winning the battle against the current deadly Ebola disease which has ravaged our economy. We need over $400 million in coming years to provide adequate health services. Our debt payments could be used to provide these services. Therefore, cancel the debts now to save more babies and women and give Sierra Leone a better future.”
Tim Jones from Jubilee Debt Campaign said:
“It is a scandal that money is leaving Sierra Leone to the already swollen coffers of the IMF. The IMF has made a $9 billion surplus over just the last three years, which is sitting unspent in its reserves. It could cancel all the debt of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone now, and not even notice.”
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone owe $464 million to the IMF, out of a total debt of $3,600 million. In 2015, the debt payments of the three countries are expected to be $130 million, including $21 million to the IMF. The IMF has made $9 billion ‘profit’ from its activities over the last 3 years, which is currently unspent in its reserves.
Significant debts are also owed to the World Bank. Sierra Leone is due to pay $760,000 to the World Bank on 15 December, and $4 million in 2015.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa has called for all the debt of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to be cancelled.