SA’s R70bn loan from IMF is ‘biggest grant so far’

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday said it had approved $4.3 billion (R70.7 billion) in aid to South Africa to help it fight the coronavirus pandemic – the largest loan or pandemic disbursement for any country so far.

South Africa’s IMF loan explained

The Washington-based crisis lender said in a statement:

“The IMF approved $4.3 billion in emergency financial assistance under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to support the authorities’ efforts in addressing the challenging health situation and severe economic impact of the COVID-19 shock.”

COVID-19 impact on South Africa

South Africa is the continent’s most-industrialized economy and has the largest number of detected COVID-19 cases, with more than 445 000 and 6 769 deaths as of Monday, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in June predicted the economy would shrink 7.2% in 2020, its deepest slump in 90 years, and compared the ballooning public debt to a “hippopotamus… eating our children’s inheritance.”

The money from the IMF is the latest disbursement under the RFI, which allows nations to circumvent the lengthy negotiations usually needed to secure a full economic assistance program — time most countries do not have as they struggle to cope with the coronavirus crisis.

How much will SA get from their IMF loan?

In a statement, deputy managing director Geoffrey Okamoto said “a deep economic recession is unfolding,” exacerbated by South Africa’s slow rates of growth, high unemployment and widening inequality.

The RFI money will help address the country’s balance of payment needs “that emerged as a result of the pandemic and thus contain the economic disruption and its regional spillovers.”

The money will specifically address “the fiscal pressures posed by the pandemic, limit regional spillovers and catalyze additional financing from other international financial institutions,” the IMF said.

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