Tanzania’s president calls for debt forgiveness to help battle virus

Tanzania's President elect John Pombe Magufuli addresses members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party (CCM) at the party's sub-head office on Lumumba road in Dar es Salaam, October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Emmanuel Herman

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania’s President John Magufuli called on international creditors on Wednesday to cancel debts owed by African nations to enable them use the savings to battle the coronavirus.

Tanzania has so far reported 284 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Authorities have been urging people to observe personal hygiene to slow its spread, but Magufuli has so far rejected calls to lock down the main city, Dar es Salaam.

“African countries’ economic capacity is not the same as that of developed countries,” Magufuli told a televised meeting of top security organs. He singled out the World Bank, which has been offering new lending to nations on the continent to help them tackle the health crisis.

“Instead of offering more loans to fight corona, they should forgive debts,” the president said.

Tanzania spends 700 billion shillings ($303.03 million) every month to service its debts, with close to 200 billion shillings going to the World Bank, Magufuli said.

Magufuli said locking down Dar es Salaam would cause too much damage to Tanzania’s economy.

“Dar es Salaam is a port city. Therefore, let us continue to take serious preventive measures and not lock down,” Magufuli said, citing the large portion of government revenue derived from the city.

($1 = 2,310.0000 Tanzanian shillings)

Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Peter Graff.