The COVID-19 pandemic continues to represent an unprecedented health and economic crisis, with costs that will be felt most keenly by the poorest segments of the world’s population, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa.
“First and foremost, the immediate priority remains the preservation of health and lives. But as the region starts to recover, authorities should gradually shift from broad fiscal support to more affordable, targeted policies; concentrating in particular on the poorest households and those sectors hit hardest by the crisis.
“Looking even further forward, and once the crisis has waned, countries should refocus their attention on transforming their economies, creating jobs, and boosting living standards—clawing back some of the ground lost during the current crisis. As before the crisis, part of this effort will require putting fiscal positions back on a path consistent with debt sustainability; which will in turn require a renewed determination to implement revenue-mobilization, debt-management, and public financial management reforms. In addition, sustainable, job-rich, and inclusive growth will require private-sector investment, along with a business environment in which new ideas and projects can flourish, and where new opportunities (such as from the digital revolution) can be developed fully.
“None of this will be easy, particularly in light of the scale of the crisis and its longer-term consequences. The region cannot tackle these challenges alone, and a coordinated effort by all development partners will be key. The IMF has modified the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) to provide immediate debt service relief for its poorest and most vulnerable members, and has also doubled its emergency lending facilities. So far, 29 countries in the region have received around $10 billion in funding through these facilities, or through expanded access under existing programs. In April, the G20 also announced the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which allows the world’s poorest countries—most of them in Africa—to suspend up to US$14 billion of debt service payments due between May and December this year.