IMF approves $4.3 billion aid to help South Africa’s COVID-19 fight

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by French Press Agency – AFP

A health worker treats a patient at a temporary field hospital set up by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) during the COVID-19 outbreak in Khayelitsha township near Cape Town, South Africa, July 21, 2020. (Reuters Photo)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday said it had approved $4.3 billion in aid to South Africa to help it fight the coronavirus pandemic.

“The IMF approved $4.3 billion in emergency financial assistance under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to support the authorities’ efforts in addressing the challenging health situation and severe economic impact of the COVID-19 shock,” the Washington-based crisis lender said in a statement.

South Africa is the continent’s most-industrialized economy and has the largest number of detected COVID-19 cases, with more than 445,000 and 6,769 deaths as of Monday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in June predicted the economy would shrink 7.2% in 2020, its deepest slump in 90 years, and compared the ballooning public debt to a “hippopotamus… eating our children’s inheritance.”

The money from the IMF is the latest disbursement under the RFI, which allows nations to circumvent the lengthy negotiations usually needed to secure a full economic assistance program – time most countries do not have as they struggle to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement, deputy managing director Geoffrey Okamoto said “a deep economic recession is unfolding,” exacerbated by South Africa’s slow rates of growth, high unemployment and widening inequality.

The RFI money will help address the country’s balance of payment needs “that emerged as a result of the pandemic and thus contain the economic disruption and its regional spillovers.”

The money will specifically address “the fiscal pressures posed by the pandemic, limit regional spillovers and catalyze additional financing from other international financial institutions,” the IMF said.

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