Myanmar said it’s considering whether to tap emergency financing from multilateral lenders including the International Monetary Fund to cushion the blow of the coronavirus outbreak.
The government has held discussions with the IMF, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and others, Aung Naing Oo, secretary of the government panel set up to tackle the economic impact of the virus, said in an interview.
“We may seek emergency funds in the future, if things lead to the need for that,” Aung Naing Oo said Friday. “Our plan is to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.”
Multilateral lenders have pledged to mobilize huge amounts to help countries grappling with the damage caused by the pathogen. The IMF has said it’s ready to deploy all of its $1 trillion lending capacity, while the World Bank expects to make as much as $160 billion available over the next 15 months.
Factory closures, especially in the labor-intensive garment industry, are already leading to job losses in Myanmar. Economic growth is set to slow sharply to 2%-3% this year, compared with an earlier expectation of 6.4 percent, according to the World Bank.
The Southeast Asian nation had 21 confirmed infections and one death as of Monday morning. There are fears the disease known as Covid-19 is more widespread than official numbers suggest because of limited testing, and that a major outbreak would overwhelm health care facilities.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has so far announced a $70 million lending program to help businesses, but this is fraction of the country’s $71 billion gross domestic product. The central bank has also lowered borrowing costs.