Ebola: Minimal economic impact anticipated as FG takes stock

The Nigerian government is now taking stock of the real economic impact of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in the country, said to have been properly addressed, though 400 individuals are still under observation.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, co-ordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance, said a Federal Government committee, headed by the office of the chief economic adviser to the President has been set up to count the losses and is expected to disclose its findings as soon as anything changes.

Already, it is being estimated that the Boko-Haram insurgency, helped by the Ebola disease which has succeeded in taking just seven lives, with 400 persons still under surveillance, could take out some 0.5 percentage points from the nation’s seven percent robust growth forecast for the year.

“We have already discounted 0.5 percentage points from the GDP forecast for 2014, largely from terror and a little bit for the Ebola influence,” Okonjo-Iweala confirmed in a chat.

Like many analysts, the minister projects that the Ebola disease would likely have consequence for the Nigerian economy, largely in the hospitality sector, and maybe trade , but may not be grave, considering the way the disease had been largely contained by the government.

“You can see that hotel occupancy rates in Lagos are down, some business meetings have been postponed by people from outside.

“We are taking that into account, we have not finished.

We are still monitoring, we have a little team chaired by the  Chief Economic Adviser, that is working on the impact of Ebola now.

“So far, what we have seen is that it is not having that big an impact, but we are still monitoring.

“And we will announce it if we see any further impact, especially on the growth rate,” she stated.

Already, latest GDP numbers  for the first and second quarters of the year are showing signs of a downward trend in the accommodation and food services sectors, confirming the report.

In real terms, accommodation and food services contributed about N125.9 billion  to total GDP in the second quarter of 2014, significantly lower than N156.3 billion recorded in the first quarter and N168.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.

It is also being projected that the disease risks having a direct financial effect on government budgets, through increased health expenditures which could be significant.

The Nigerian government had earlier released N1.9 billion to contain the spread of the disease, amidst dwindling revenue and other contending developmental needs.

Nineteen confirmed cases of Ebola are recorded in Nigeria till date. Out of this, seven deaths and 11 recoveries are recorded, while about 400 people are being monitored in Port Harcourt area.

But Okonjo-Iweala believes the impact would be minimal. “The very way we have been managing this has contained it.

“And so, largely people have gone about their normal business and you know that our economy is largely by internal consumption, and that is why we are not thinking that it will have that large an impact.

“But there would be some impact,” the finance minister admitted.

Source : BusinessDay

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