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Morocco sees the meetings of the IMF and the World Bank continue despite the earthquake

(Bloomberg) — Morocco expects the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to take place in Marrakech next month to go ahead despite a major earthquake that killed about 2,500 people.

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Morocco’s strongest earthquake in 120 years struck the High Atlas Mountains on September 8, hitting some of the poorest regions and shaking a city that is among the top tourist destinations. Rescue efforts are ongoing, with the World Health Organization estimating the number of people affected at around 300,000.

Moroccan officials overseeing preparations for the Oct. 9-15 meetings asked the IMF and the World Bank on Saturday about the communications plans they will address to participating delegations in the wake of the disaster, a Moroccan government official said. The official did not want to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the plans with the media.

Morocco will follow through on these communication plans at the end of a three-day period of national mourning declared on Saturday, the person said.

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In response to requests for comment, a World Bank spokesperson pointed to a statement issued Saturday saying the institution’s “sole focus at this stage is on the Moroccan people and authorities dealing with this tragedy.” An IMF spokeswoman referred Bloomberg to a joint statement on Sunday offering to “support Morocco in the best possible way.”

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The decision on whether or not to go ahead with the event in Marrakesh will probably have to be made by the Moroccan government. The country has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure, including a 45-hectare (450,000-square-metre) site built specifically for the meetings in Bab Ighli, just outside the walls surrounding the city’s ancient heart.

Although parts of the city wall have collapsed, the Bab Ighli site has not suffered any damage and work there has not stopped.

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IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva toured the site in June, wearing a construction helmet, and proudly announced that 10,000 people were expected to attend.

The first annual meetings of the multinational lenders, held on the African continent since 1973, were expected to boost spending in Morocco’s fourth-largest city. They were initially scheduled for 2021, but faced a two-year delay due to the Covid pandemic.

Most hotels in the city are secure and can receive the delegations, the Moroccan official said. Many of the buildings in Marrakech’s more modern neighborhoods have largely escaped serious damage.

The IMF and the World Bank have experience in holding their annual meetings in the aftermath of disasters.

In 2018, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Indonesia killed more than 4,000 people, less than two weeks before rallies were due to be held on the holiday island of Bali. The event continued as Christine Lagarde, then head of the IMF, toured the disaster site.

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