January 30, 2015 / 12:22 PM / 5 years ago

IMF hopes for deal soon on debt forgiveness for Ebola countries

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde points to a button saying "Isolate Ebola, REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

DAKAR (Reuters) - An agreement to forgive some of the debt of Ebola-hit West African nations may be reached soon in talks between the International Monetary Fund and donor countries, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said.

Lagarde, on a three-day visit to Senegal, said that the IMF board was also due to approve in early February a zero-percent- interest loan of $160 million for the three countries worst-affected by Ebola - Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

That would add to $130 million disbursed by the Fund in September on the same terms.

“We are exploring the means of easing the debt of these three countries in concertation with a number of donor countries,” Lagarde told a news conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall. “I hope we will have some good news to bring you soon on lessening the debt of these three countries.”

The United States, the IMF’s biggest donor, first proposed in November the idea of writing off some $100 million in debt owed to the IMF by the three countries to support their economies and free up more money for government spending.

An academic study in December said the IMF was partly responsible for the scale of the Ebola crisis in three West African countries, because its policies hampered healthcare spending in these post-conflict states.

Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Larry King

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