Liberia has announced it is losing over US$1.6 million monthly revenue at the country’s Roberts International Airport (RIA) alone as a result of flight suspension by airlines due to the deadly Ebola outbreak in the country.
The country’s Acting Minister of Finance and Economic Development Planning, Mr. Amara M. Konneh, told reporters in Monrovia Thursday that the suspension of flights at RIA is having a grave impact on the economy.
“This is not money for a post-war economy to lose,” he said. Many key airlines, including the US-owned Delta, Air France, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Air, amongst others, have suspended flights to Monrovia fearing the Ebola virus outbreak.
The Liberian Finance Minister also disclosed that the impact of the Ebola crisis will cost the government over US$120 million.
The impact of the Ebola crisis has pushed the government to revise its gross domestic product (GDP) growth downward from a projected 5.9 percent growth by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 2014 to 2.5 percent.
“Real GDP is projected to decline by about 3.4 percent to about 2.5 percent,” he said. Many concession companies have declared force majeure and fled the country for safety.
Mr. Konneh admitted that the outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has already claimed the lives of over 1,200 people and infected over 1,000 people in Liberia, is a huge blow to the economy.
He declared that the government’s Economic Management Team (EMT) has submitted a number of measures, including austerities, which would create the fiscal space for more investment into government’s fight against Ebola and to mitigate the economic impact of the virus on the economy. “So we are going to find some money to help the hardest hit sectors of the economy and this would include finding some stimulus package for the private sector,” he stated.
Mr. Konneh also announced that government will continue with its austerity measures to reduce recurrent spending, urging public officials to fuel their private vehicles from their own pockets.
“If you buy your own private car, fuel it with your own money, not with government’s money,” he said.
Some government officials are still finding it very difficult to adapt the new policy as most of them are used to relying on freely using public properties for their personal interests.
The Minister insisted that Liberia businesses are hurting as a result of Ebola and they need some help. “We have to give them some help, but we have to give it to them through the banks because they need it.”
Min. Konneh also used the occasion to challenge the international community to be more accountable and report the financial resources it is pooling to help the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. “They must make financial reports on what they are spending the money on in Liberia and other countries item by item,” he said.
The international community has been criticized for being too slow to help eradicate the Ebola virus in West Africa.