April 26, 2009 / 8:22 PM / 10 years ago

Mexico says flu could have big economic impact

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mexican Finance Minister Agustin Carstens said on Sunday the outbreak of swine flu could have a big impact on Mexico’s economy, although it was too soon to say how significant the effect might be.

“This issue can have an important impact on the economy, although the most important impact is the one on human life and human well being,” Finance Minister Agustin Carstens told reporters.

“At this stage, without ignoring that this is a very serious matter and that it has a high potential for disruption, I would say that it’s early to give a more concrete opinion,” he said.

Carstens, speaking at a news conference after a meeting of the IMF and World Bank’s joint Development Committee, said the World Bank was giving Mexico an immediate loan of $25 million to help with medicine and medical equipment.

In addition, he said the Bank would provide a further $180 million to help Mexico set up operations to deal with the outbreak.

The flu has killed 81 people in Mexico. Twenty cases have appeared in the United States and six in Canada, with other possible cases as far afield as Europe and New Zealand.

Carstens said the World Bank would help Mexico try to better gauge what the economic fallout might be.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the focus right now was on the human toll. “For now the focus is to try to take care of people’s lives,” he said.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Tim Ahmann

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