The Ebola epidemic continues to cripple economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and is projected to result in negative or contracting growth in these countries next year as they work to eradicate the virus, according to an Ebola Economic Impact Update released by the World Bank Group on Tuesday.
The report comes as World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim begins a two-day visit to West Africa to assess the epidemic's impact and discuss with governments and international agencies what steps need to be taken to reach the goal of zero cases as soon as possible.
This report updates the World Bank Group's October 8 analysis of the economic effects of the Ebola crisis on the three hardest-hit countries.
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). All three countries had been growing rapidly in recent years and into the first half of 2014.
Moreover, 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). 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.
"This report reinforces why zero Ebola cases must be our goal. While there are signs of progress, as long as the epidemic continues, the human and economic impact will only grow more devastating," said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. "As we accelerate the immediate health response, the international community must also do everything we can to help the affected countries back on the road to economic recovery and development." 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.
Governments have also been forced to cut public investments - such as Liberia's 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.