Against the background of the pandemic shock, a coup d’état on August 18, 2020 led to a period of international disengagement with Mali and an economic blockade by ECOWAS until the appointment of a transitional government in October. Fund engagement was also put on hold during this period, delaying the resumption of discussions under the 2nd and 3rd reviews of the ECF. The transitional government, which will be in place for 18 months until general elections, announced its full adherence to the international obligations and commitments of the previous government, including the reform agenda under the ECF.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the August 2020 coup d’état have disrupted more than half a decade of strong economic performance, during which growth averaged 5 percent.1 Growth is projected to decline from 5 percent to -2 percent in 2020 both on account of the pandemic (reflecting a slowdown in external demand, travel, and FDI, as well as the impact of uncertainty and reduced mobility on domestic demand) and of post-coup disruptions in trade, transport, economic and financial flows following the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Inflation accelerated slightly in recent months but is expected to remain below 2 percent, while the current account deficit is projected to narrow due to higher gold prices (main export) and lower oil prices (main import). Risks around the outlook are exceptionally high in light of the uncertainty surrounding the political transition, the impact of the sanctions on trade and overall activity, and continued deterioration in the security situation. Weak social safety nets amid high informality, food insecurity and a fragile healthcare system exacerbate challenges.
This paper discusses Requests for Disbursement Under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) and Rephasing of Access Under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Arrangement. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) shock hit the economy hard amid an already challenging social and security situation. The decline in economic activity, spillovers from global trade and financing shocks, along with fiscal measures to combat the crisis have created an urgent balance-of-payments and fiscal financing needs. The authorities have responded quickly to the pandemic with containment measures, stepped up healthcare response, and emergency measures to support households and business affected by the outbreak. The regional central bank responded with measures to support liquidity in the banking system. Given the urgent balance of payment need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the infeasibility of completing a review under the ECF arrangement, staff supports these requests and welcomes commitments to safeguard transparency and accountability in the use of emergency funds. The RCF is expected to cover about 40 percent of the financing gap in 2020 and is expected to play a catalytic role. The authorities are actively engaged with other donors, including the World Bank, to cover the remaining financing needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added to Mali’s significant security and social challenges. The outbreak reached Mali relatively late, with first confirmed cases on March 24 and 293 cases (seventeen deaths) as of April 22, 2020. The authorities took early containment measures in March and announced a package of economic and social support measures in early April. Growth is expected to decelerate sharply in 2020 as a result of declines in travel, trade, FDI and remittances. Job losses, weak social safety nets amid high informality, food insecurity and a fragile health system will exacerbate social challenges. Lower economic activity and the policy response will exert significant pressures on the budget and the balance of payments, opening financing gaps of 2.9 and 3.1 percent of GDP, respectively.
Mali is a low-income fragile country facing significant development challenges that have intensified due to insurgency, terrorism, and social tensions. Implementation of the 2015 peace agreement is challenging, and the authorities have limited control over the North and Center regions. Mali’s social development could be further undermined by the recent instability and interethnic violence that complicates the government’s ability to implement basic social and poverty-reducing programs. The economic outlook for Mali remains positive but subject to important downside risks. The potential real growth rate is estimated at about 5 percent per year and inflation is expected to continue to be contained by the CFAF’s peg to the euro. Downside risks relate to the possible further deterioration of the security situation, potential shocks to the terms of trade (the price of gold, cotton, and fuels), and adverse weather conditions. In addition, a continued shortfall in domestically-financed public investment, if revenue mobilization does not improve as expected, could adversely affect growth potential and performance.