MENA countries have three priorities for their economic handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, says Jihad Azour, the Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Azour said that these priorities include saving people’s lives, saving economic engines and setting policies to prepare for the post-coronavirus recovery.
This came during his participation in a virtual panel discussion, entitled “Crisis Upon Crisis: The Geopolitical and Economic Implications of the Pandemic”, organised by the Beriut-based Carnegie Middle East Center.
The IMF is ready to provide immediate support to MENA countries in terms of fiscal and financial policies to face the problem of decreased liquidity, Azour added. He said “We don’t know how long this crisis will last, yet countries have to prepare for the recovery.”
“We have to expect a new model of the economy after COVID-19 and a new kind of global cooperation,” he said, adding that the countries in the MENA region will learn many lessons after the crisis including boosting the trust between the citizens and the states.
Countries facing conflict, such as Iraq, Syria and Libya, are the most affected by the current coronavirus crisis, due to their weak healthcare systems and fragile economies, Azour said.
He added that countries with high debt levels will be severely impacted by the crisis and the shutdown of the economies. Alongside this, it will be the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that will suffer the greatest economic hardships.
Amer Bisat , Managing Director at Blackrock, said the current coronavirus crisis is similar to a natural disaster or a massive storm of the global economy. Bisat added that this crisis has switched off the global economy as production services are on hold
Bisat emphasised that the normalisation and recovery following the crisis will not be aggressive.
Maha Yahya, Carnegie Middle East Center Director and panel moderator, said there is a significant added impact on the Middle East as the tourism falls and global supply chain is disturbed.