Ethiopia readies measures to uphold economy: State Minister of Finance

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  • Ethiopia puts forward a 15 billion birr as liquidity for private banks to support businesses
  • State Minister of Finance announced plans for larger measures depending on the impact of the pandemic  

The Ethiopian government is considering schemes to mitigate the economic impact in the face of a growing coronavirus epidemic, the country’s State Minister of Finance said.

Eyob Tekalign said in an interview with the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) on Tuesday that the government was discussing a package of measures to help sectors likely to be affected, should the country enters a complete lockdown.

‘The macroeconomic team led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been looking at two scenarios, a best-case scenario, and a worst-case scenario,’ the State Minister of Finance said. ‘The current situation is what we call the best-case scenario. Sectors such as tourism, the airline, hospitality, flower export are already suffering huge losses. If things take turn for the worse, and the country enters complete lockdown, various recovery packages would be applied,’ he said.

Such a move would address requests by the flower and tourism industries for a grace period to help them retain their employees for two or three months and working capital. ‘The main focus is on those sectors that have been affected more than others and to support people through these difficult times,’ Eyob said.

To address that the National Bank of Ethiopia would inject 15 billion Ethiopian birr as liquidity for private banks, he said. The State Minister said there are also plans for larger fiscal measures to support businesses and delivering food for those in need. The government would do its level best to prevent the temporary economic hit resulting from those costs having a permanent impact, he concluded.

180 Quarantine facilities in place: Press Secretary

In other virus-related news, Ethiopia has begun converting hotels, schools, and religious institutions into isolation wards to deal with an anticipated surge in coronavirus cases, Nigusu Tilahun, Press Secretary at the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister announced. 180 isolation facilities have been set up in addition to already designated treatment centers, he said. According to Nigusu, the facilities would have a capacity to host more than 180 thousand people and they are being equipped with vital medical equipment, beds, and health professionals.

Responding to reports about people fleeing from the quarantine facilities, Nigusu confirmed three people indeed fled but they were tracked and were made to return to the hotels. Last week it was announced that all passengers arriving from abroad to be quarantined in hotels converted for the purpose. Nigusu says each of the hotels has strict security measures backed up by the police.

Ethiopia reported three new cases of coronavirus infection on April 1, bringing the total cases to 29. The country has implemented several precautionary measures, including closing schools, bars and nighclubs and banning major public events, to stem the spread of coronavirus, which has brought much of the country’s activity to a standstill and prompted economists to reduce its growth forecasts.

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