When Finance & Development Planning Minister Amara M. Konneh said in November that the country's economy is in serious trouble as a result of the Ebola outbreak, he wasn't instilling fear in the population, but speaking reality, suggesting that Liberians needed to be aware of the situation and prepare for the worst.
Addressing A Regular press conference at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT), Minister Konneh said: “Before the Ebola outbreak, our economy was projected to grow at 5.9% in 2014, down from 8.7 percent in the year prior. In the early stages of the crisis, we worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to measure the effect of the economic slowdown resulting from the outbreak; and we revised our projection to a roughly 2.5 percent growth rate. As the situation worsened, our projection hit one percent. Today, that projection has been further revised to a negative (-) 0.4%.”
Minister Konneh's Statement suggested that the country is tittering on the brink of economic collapse and political instability if the state of the economy continues to shrink as they stagger to eliminate Ebola. Interestingly, the World Bank has given a deeper understanding about the worsening economic impact of the Ebola crisis in the three West African countries and predicts that the Ebola epidemic would continue to cripple the economies of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which are also projected to result in negative or contracting growth by next year.
In An Ebola Economic Impact assessment Report released on Tuesday, December 2, 2014, the World Bank said GDP growth estimates for 2014 have been revised sharply downward since pre-crisis estimates to 2.2 percent for Liberia (versus 5.9 percent pre-crisis and 2.5 percent in October); and 4.0 percent for Sierra Leone (versus 11.3 percent pre-crisis and 8.0 percent in October); and 0.5 percent for Guinea (versus 4.5 percent pre-crisis and 2.4 percent in October).
The World Bank acknowledged that all three countries have been growing rapidly in recent years and into the first half of 2014; suddenly the Ebola outbreak introduced a different variable which is having a devastating impact on the economies of three states. Additionally, the World Bank Group is now projecting negative growth for 2015 of -0.2% in Guinea (down from pre-crisis estimates of 4.3 percent and 2.0 percent in October) and -2.0% in Sierra Leone (down from 8.9 percent and 7.7 percent in October).
However, In Liberia, where there are signs of progress in containing the epidemic and some increasing economic activity, the updated 2015 growth estimate is 3.0 percent, an increase from 1.0 percent in October but still less than half the pre-crisis estimate of 6.8 percent. These latest projections imply forgone income across the three countries in 2014-15 totaling more than $2 billion.
The Report Finds that the total fiscal impact is more than half a billion dollars in 2014 alone, imposing additional budget needs of more than 6.0 percent of GDP in Liberia, more than 3.0 percent in Guinea, and more than 2.5 percent in Sierra Leone, apparently indicating that governments of the three West African countries are compelled to cut down on public investments - such as the Mount Coffee hydroelectric plant, which now remains on hold in the absence of foreign contractors - by more than $160 million across the three countries, hurting future growth prospects.
The World Bank report is a clear indication that Liberians should be prepared for the worst - next year - as the country titters gradually on the brink of social unrest. Liberia has a good number of its workforce staying home due to Ebola, revenue generation has slowed, schools are closed, transportation and basic commodities have skyrocketed and food security remains a strategic concern. It appears that socioeconomic condition in Liberia is the same in Guinea and Sierra Leone where citizens are equally resentful as those at home.
Our Government Must know that Liberia is not out of the woods yet, and as long as we have not been certificated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being Ebola free, there are probabilities that something could trigger a reverse of the Ebola surge.
The Unity Party led government is under immense domestic pressure to address the condition of its people. Most Liberians are not enthusiastic about the performance of the government especially the last two years, which have been ravaged by budget shortfalls. Unemployment is about 85% and there are no signs of economic prosperity anytime soon. Considering the situation before us, we call on Liberians to brace for tougher days ahead and be conscious of the reality that Ebola remains a threat unless Liberia is declared Ebola free.