IMF receives record number of assistance requests from virus-hit developing economies

Around 85 countries have approached the Washington-based lender for emergency aid

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 17, 2020, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva speaks in Washington, DC. The coronavirus pandemic has driven the global economy into a downturn that will require massive funding to help developing nations, Georgieva said on March 27. 2020. / AFP / JIM WATSON

The International Monetary Fund received a record number of requests for financing from developing countries struggling to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, its managing director Kristalina Georgieva said.

Around 85 countries have already approached the Washington-based lender for emergency assistance, which Ms Georgieva said is a record in the institution's 75-year history. The IMF is looking to double its emergency funding to $100 billion (Dh367bn) to help struggling economies and will deploy the entirety of its financial capacity to meet requests for funding from its members, she said.

All these countries have approached the IMF "all at one time", she said in a joint videoconference with Tedros Adhanom, the head of the World Health Organisation.

"To accommodate this surge, we are deploying our total financial capacity of $1 trillion. Within that, we are aiming to double the availability of our emergency, fast-disbursing resources from $50 billion up to $100bn – funds that can help the emerging market and developing countries in particular."

The IMF is also looking at other ways to infuse additional liquidity, she added.

The global economy, Ms Georgieva said, is headed for a worse recession than the global financial crisis of 2008-09.

“This is a crisis like no other. We have witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill. We are now in recession. It is way worse than the global financial crisis," she told reporters.

The World Bank President David Malpass, in a note on LinkedIn, echoed her sentiments, saying the repercussions for the global economy are far more severe than those faced a decade ago.

The outbreak has hammered the global economy, which according to some estimates could contract more than 1.5 per cent this year and the IMF expects recovery to begin only next year. The pandemic has forced governments to shut borders, bringing travel and tourism to a halt and putting about 75 million tourism sector jobs at risk globally.

The virus has so far infected more than 1.13 million people globally with the death toll climbing past 60,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global data. More than 233,000 people have recovered.

While governments around the world are ploughing more stimulus into their economies, unemployment numbers are still surging as companies lay off staff to stay afloat.

The number of new US unemployment insurance claims hit a record last week  of more than 6 million - a figure that was twice as high as the previous record set one week before.

The world's largest economy has ended nearly nine years of continuous growth as it shed 710,000 jobs in early March. Economists are expecting unemployment figures to worsen as the number of cases continue to rise.

The US has so far reported over 278,000 Covid-19 cases, more than double those of Spain, which is second in the global tally of infections.  Social distancing measures could impact up to 92 per cent of gross domestic product, according to a Goldman Sachs report.

The US and other G20 members have poured an estimated $5tn into their economies through fiscal stimulus in a bid to stabilise financial markets. The UN last month called for a separate $2.5tn package by the G20 for developing economies to help them cope with the pandemic.

The Institute of International Finance said last week that emerging economies witnessed a $62bn outflow of capital during the first quarter of 2020, which is about twice the level of outflows seen at the height of the global financial crisis.

The IMF has already taken step to ease debt obligations for some of its members through its catastrophe containment relief trust. The fund will work with the World Bank to bring to a standstill debt obligations of the poorest of countries.

"We are doing all this in record time, with the first projects already approved and money disbursed," said Ms Georgieva.

"And as our financing reaches countries, we are working with them to ensure that they are focused on priorities: urgent health expenditures and urgent support for the economy," she added.