April 30, 2020 / 3:30 PM / a month ago

Georgian economy grows at annual 1.5% rate in first quarter

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia’s economy grew 1.5% year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, down from 4.7% in the same period of 2019, but shrank last month as measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus took their toll, preliminary data showed on Thursday.

In March alone, gross domestic product contracted by 2.7% after expanding 2.2% in February. In March year ago, GDP grew by 6.0%.

The fastest growth in March was registered in construction as well as communications, while almost all other sectors declined.

Georgia’s economy expanded 5.2% in 2019, up from 4.8% in 2018. This year, the government had expected it to expand 4.5%, before the new coronavirus started to spread in the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million.

The economy is now expected to contract by 4% this year.

International financial institutions have pledged support to the country.

The World Bank said late on Wednesday it would provide $80 million to help the country in mitigating and addressing the health and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Bank is also collaborating with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to provide an additional $100 million under a joint co-finance arrangement.

In addition, the International Monetary Fund executive board is expected to approve a $200 million tranche of financial support for Georgia this week.

Georgia had reported 517 cases of the virus as of Thursday, with six deaths.

Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Alex Richardson

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