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Mr. Serhan Cevik
The coronavirus pandemic is a global crisis like no other in modern times, and there is a growing apprehension about handling potentially contaminated cash. This paper is the first empirical attempt in the literature to investigate whether the risk of infectious diseases affects demand for physical cash. Since the intensity of cash use may influence the spread of infectious diseases, this paper utilizes two-stage least squares (2SLS) methodology with instrumental variable (IV) to address omitted variable bias and account for potential endogeneity. The analysis indicates that the spread of infectious diseases lowers demand for physical cash, after controlling for macroeconomic, financial, and technological factors. While the transactional constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic could become a catalyst for the use of digital technologies around the world, electronic payment methods may not be universally available in every country owing to financial and technological bottlenecks.
Mr. Serhan Cevik
This paper develops a gravity model framework to estimate the impact of infectious diseases on bilateral tourism flows among 38,184 pairs of countries over the period 1995–2017. The results confirm that international tourism is adversely affected by disease risk, and the magnitude of this negative effect is statistically and economically significant. In the case of SARS, for example, a 10 percent rise in confirmed cases leads to a reduction of as much as 9 percent in tourist arrivals. Furthermore, while infectious diseases appear to have a smaller and statistically insignificant negative effect on tourism flows to advanced economies, the magnitude and statistical significance of the impact of infectious diseases are much greater in developing countries, where such diseases tend to be more prevalent and health infrastructure lags behind.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.

Seventh and Eighth Reviews Under the Extended Credit Facility Arrangement, and Request for Nonobservance of Performance Criteria-Press Release; Staff Report; and Statement by the Executive Director for Liberia

International Monetary Fund. African Dept.

Recovery from the twin shocks of Ebola and the collapse of the iron ore sector continues. Non-iron ore sector growth is projected to be 3.7 percent in 2016, led by manufacturing and trade. Iron ore growth is also recovering, with the main company now operating with moderate profitability. Overall growth is projected to be 4.9 percent. Inflation was 10.9 percent at end-September, while the exchange rate has depreciated 19 percent over the last year. The budget is under severe pressure, in part because the rapid depreciation has stripped the government of all excise revenue from retail fuel, and led to explicit subsidies from the budget to keep retail fuel prices fixed. All end-June performance criteria were met while some structural benchmarks were missed. However, the ceiling on net domestic financing was met in part through the accumulation of arrears. There was also a minor non-observance of the continuous ceiling on external debt and a temporary multiple currency practice was introduced in recent months. This is the last review under this ECF arrangement, which expires on December 21, 2016. The authorities have expressed interest in negotiating a successor program in early 2017.

International Monetary Fund. African Dept.
This Selected Issues paper aims to measure the impact of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic on economic growth in Sierra Leone. A novel empirical approach is used, which is based on a Difference in Differences setup, called the Synthetic Control Method. The model suggests that EVD had a severe impact on growth. In 2014, the first year EVD hit the country, the impact on real growth excluding iron ore is estimated to be more than 5 percentage points. It is suggested that in outer years, the severity of the impact will lessen, and growth will converge to its normal path by 2018.
International Monetary Fund. African Dept.

This 2016 Article IV Consultation highlights that the Ebola epidemic and the fall in commodity prices have revealed the vulnerabilities of Liberia's economy. After barely positive growth in 2014, GDP was flat in 2015 mainly owing to the decline in activity in the iron ore and rubber sectors. Although international gross reserves increased in 2015, the Central Bank of Liberia's net foreign exchange position declined owing to operational deficits and exceptional support to the banking sector. In 2016, growth is expected to rise to 2.5 percent, thanks to a rebound in services and the start of gold production, while inflation should stay in the single digits.

International Monetary Fund. African Dept.

Guinea was declared free of the Ebola epidemic at end-2015 and after two years of stagnant activity, growth is expected to rebound this year. Pent-up demand coupled with robust agricultural growth, and improved electricity provision will be the main drivers of activity, lifting growth to around 4 percent. However, given the severity of the shocks that have hit Guinea during 2014-15 and continued depressed commodities prices, the recovery is expected to be gradual and will need to be supported by policies to restore macroeconomic stability and rebuild domestic and external buffers. Structural reforms are also needed to improve the business environment, including in the mining sector, and strengthen the delivery of public service.

International Monetary Fund. African Dept.

This paper discusses Liberia's Fourth Review Under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Arrangement and Requests for Waivers of Nonobservance of Performance Criteria (PC), Modification of PC, and Rephasing and Extension of the Arrangement. The end-June 2014 quantitative PC on government revenues and central bank net foreign exchange position, and one indicative target on net domestic assets were not met. Only three out of seven structural benchmarks for the fourth review were met. Based on the authorities' corrective actions, the IMF staff supports completion of the delayed fourth ECF review, and the authorities' request for an extension and re-phasing of the program to end-December 2016.