"Debt, corruption and tax evasion are part of why people die in West Africa," stated Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, a religious development coalition. "The money was there to contain Ebola and save more people from preventable diseases."
Guinea, where the outbreak began, spent more on debt payments in 2012 than it spent on public health. Guinea spent $207 million on debt payments in 2013 and 2012. According to the Financial Times, the three countries owe the International Monetary Fund (IMF) nearly $480 million.
Sierra Leone spent $2.3 million paying off debts since the IMF announced a debt relief plan in November and will spend nearly $2 million more before the end of the year.
The three countries accrued much of their current debt burden during civil wars, dictatorships and one-party rule. US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew brought Jubilee USA's plan for debt relief to the November G20 meetings held in Brisbane, Australia. The G20 made a financing commitment to the three Ebola affected countries of 300 million dollars in debt relief, grants and new loans. The IMF could announce the financing plan as early as January.
"Winning debt relief and stopping tax evasion provide long term monies for healthcare and development," said LeCompte, who serves on United Nations Expert Groups that address debt and illicit finance. "More people die from preventable diseases annually in these countries than from Ebola."
According to GFI, developing countries lose nearly $1 trillion each year to illicit flows. From 2003 - 2012, Liberia lost more than $900 million annually on average, while Guinea lost more than $300 million. In 2013, the G8 signed a joint declaration calling on the international community to curb corruption and corporate tax avoidance. This past August, during the White House Africa Summit, the Obama Administration announced a committee to make recommendations to address these outflows.
"There's broad consensus that we need to keep money from flowing out of developing economies," added LeCompte. "There's so much the international community can do."
Read more about Ebola debt relief.
Read GFI's report on illicit financial flows.
Read the World Bank's new debt statistics.