Sri Lankan schools have been closed and civil servants told not to come to work in a desperate move to prepare for a severe fuel shortage that is expected to last for days as protests continue amid the worst economic crisis in the world. country for decades.
The Ministry of Public Administration has asked public officials – except those maintaining essential services – to stay at home on Friday ‘in view of the current shortage of fuel and problems in transport facilities’ across the country.
State and government-approved private schools also closed on Friday amid worsening fuel shortages, with thousands of people lining up at gas stations across the country for days at a time. .
Sri Lanka is now almost without gasoline and also faces a severe shortage of other fuels.
The government has struggled to find money to pay for the import of fuel, gas and other essentials in recent months as the Indian Ocean island nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.
“While there may not be time to get fertilizer for this Yala season (May-August), steps are being taken to ensure adequate stocks for the Maha season (September-March),” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a Twitter post. Thursday.
“I sincerely urge everyone to accept the seriousness of the…situation.”
Tired sellers grapple with an uncertain future
Sri Lanka, which depends on tourism, faces severe shortages of foreign exchange, fuel and medicine, and economic activity has slowed at a frantic pace.
“There is no point in talking about the harshness of life,” said APD Sumanavathi, a 60-year-old woman selling fruits and vegetables in Pettah market in Colombo, the commercial capital. “I can’t predict how things will be in two months, at this rate we might not even be there.”
Nearby, a long queue had formed in front of a shop selling cooking gas cylinders, whose prices have almost doubled in a month.
“Only about 200 cylinders were delivered, when there were about 500 people,” said Mohammad Shazly, a part-time driver in the queue for the third day hoping to cook for his family from five persons.
“Without gas, without kerosene, we can’t do anything,” he said. “Last option what? Without food, we will die. It will happen one hundred percent.”
Economic difficulties have caused a political crisis, with the government facing widespread protests.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in to nine ministers on Friday, bringing the total number to 13 as he tries to stabilize the government after a series of resignations.
The new ministers include four independent lawmakers, three from the ruling party and two from the main opposition party. Four lawmakers from the ruling party were appointed ministers last week.
Many want the end of the family dynasty
Rajapaksa called for a unity government in early April, but the largest opposition political party, the United People’s Force, rejected the proposal.
For months, Sri Lankans have endured long queues to buy these necessities, most of which come from abroad. Hard currency shortages have also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and aggravated inflation.
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Protesters blocked major roads to demand petrol and fuel, and TV stations showed residents in some areas fighting over limited supplies.
Authorities have announced nationwide power cuts of up to four hours a day because they cannot supply enough fuel to power plants.
Sri Lanka has suspended repayment of about US$7 billion in foreign loans due this year out of the US$25 billion to be repaid by 2026. The country’s total external debt is US$51 billion. The Ministry of Finance says the country currently has only $25 million in usable foreign exchange reserves.
Protesters have occupied the entrance to the president’s office for more than a month, calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Countries negotiating with international lenders
Months of anti-government rallies have led to the near dismantling of the once-powerful ruling family, with one of the president’s brothers stepping down as prime minister, and other siblings and a nephew quitting their cabinet posts. Protesters accuse the Rajapaksas of triggering the crisis through corruption and mismanagement. Mahinda Rajapaksa served as president for a decade until 2015 and served as finance minister in his brother’s government until last year.
Wickremesinghe, installed last week as prime minister for the sixth time, said on Monday some $75 billion was urgently needed to help deliver essential items, but the country’s treasury is struggling to find ne even a billion dollars.
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Attacks by Rajapaksa supporters on protesters last week sparked nationwide violence that left nine dead – including a lawmaker – and more than 200 injured. The homes of lawmakers and their supporters were burned down.
G7 economy ministers support efforts to relieve Sri Lanka’s debt, the group’s finance chiefs said Thursday in a draft statement from a meeting in Germany after Sri Lanka defaulted on its debt. sovereign debt.
Additionally, the country’s central bank governor said on Thursday that foreign exchange had been obtained through a World Bank loan and remittances to pay for fuel and cooking gas shipments, but supplies were not available. were not yet delivered.