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The New Arab

IMF to provide Yemen immediate debt relief in bid to fight coronavirus

Yemen has one confirmed coronavirus infection to date [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 April, 2020

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Twenty-five countries, including Yemen, will receive a total of around $215 million in IMF debt relief to focus efforts on fighting coronavirus.
Yemen, alongside 24 other countries including Afghanistan and Chad, will receive grants covering debt obligations to help curb the coronavirus pandemic, the International Monetary Fund said on Monday.

The relief, which will roll out for an initial period of six months, will help 25 of the international fund’s ailing members focus their resources on stemming Covid-19.

“This provides grants to our poorest and most vulnerable members to cover their IMF debt obligations ... and will help them channel more of their scarce financial resources towards vital emergency medical and other relief efforts,” IMF’s Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, said in a statement.

The grants are included in the IMF’s recently revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), which currently has around $500 million in resources, according to Georgienva – $215 million of which will be used in the six-month aid program.

According to Reuters, recent changes to the CCRT enabled countries who were not yet battling a significant outbreak to also benefit from the aid.

Yemen confirmed its first coronavirus case on Friday, which subsequently drew alarm from aid agencies who warned the spread could spell disaster for the war-torn country. No further cases were confirmed as of Tuesday.

Afghanistan has recorded 665 coronavirus infections – which have resulted in a total of 21 deaths – while Chad has a Covid-19 tally of only 23, with no confirmed deaths as a result of infection.

Other countries listed as beneficiaries in the statement are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, D.R., The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan and Togo.

The IMF faced criticisms for leaving out Pakistan and Sudan from the debt-relief program, which it said could be extended to 2 years if adequate donations are secured.

“It is unfortunate that despite #Pakistan’s pleas, it is not in the list. It shows how global politics dominate [international] financial institutions even in the midst of these pressing times,” Kashif Shaikh, director of a local anti-corruption NGO wrote.

In response to concerns expressed by a Sudanese twitter user, African Affairs analyst Lauren Blanchard said the countries’ relations with the Fund could be a key factor in their qualification for the grant.

Read also: IMF grants $745 million to Tunisia for coronavirus response

“Sudan is in arrears to the IMF … presumably to qualify for this countries must be in good standing with the Fund,” Blanchard said.

The IMF’s latest efforts come in light of global recorded coronavirus cases nearing 2 million.

On Tuesday, the global count of infections reached 1,930,014, accounting for 119,790 deaths.

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