IMF chief says 62% of COVID-19 lending went to Latin America

FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva makes remarks during a closing news conference for the International Monetary Finance Committee (IMFC), during the IMF and World Bank's 2019 Annual Meetings of finance ministers and bank governors, in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Sixty-two percent of the International Monetary Fund’s lending in response to the coronavirus pandemic has gone to 21 countries in hard-hit Latin America, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Tuesday.

Georgieva told a panel hosted by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, the fund had plenty of lending firepower left, and would focus on helping countries in the region take the “turn towards a greener and digital and fairer economy.”

Latin America had 8% of the world’s population, but about 20% of the COVID-19 infections and 30% of the deaths, and the end of the pandemic was not yet in sight, Georgieva said.

She said the IMF’s forecasts for 2021 called for global growth of 5.2% in 2021, with emerging markets to expand by 6%, but Latin America was expected to grow only 3.6%.

The IMF chief said countries in the region could ensure better growth in the future by investing in human capital and education, addressing persistent inequalities and creating more opportunities for young people, women and entrepreneurs.

To reduce gender inequality, governments should create conditions for increased workforce participation by women, including through investment in rural roads, enacting anti-discrimination requirements for the private sector, and making childcare more affordable, she said.

Georgieva said the U.S. election and the incoming Biden administration’s strong commitment to combating climate change, as well as a plan to invest $4 billion in Central America, spelled good news for Latin America, which ships about 45% of its exports to the United States.

Overall plans to boost the U.S. economy and diversify global supply chains would also benefit the region, she said.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Editing by Franklin Paul and Tom Brown