Home Latest News Sri Lanka’s New P.M. Warns of ‘Difficult’ Months Ahead

Sri Lanka’s New P.M. Warns of ‘Difficult’ Months Ahead

In national address, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe outlines crises facing country and details strategies to overcome them

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Sri Lanka P.M. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

Sri Lanka’s new prime minister on Monday sought to reassure the public that he will fulfill his duty to the nation, as he detailed the economic crisis facing the country and laid out strategies to overcome it.

In a national address, which he summarized in postings on social media, Ranil Wickremesinghe made no bones about the “difficult” months that laid in Colombo’s future. “The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” he said. “I have no desire to hide the truth and to lie to the public. Although these facts are unpleasant and terrifying, this is the true situation,” he added.

According to the new prime minister—who was appointed to the post last week—the government has a revenue of 1.6 trillion Sri Lankan rupees against expenditures of 2.5 trillion, leaving a budget deficit of 2.4 trillion or 13 percent of the GDP. Noting that the country’s foreign reserves had stood at $7.5 billion in November 2019, he said they had declined to below $1 million right now.

Urging the public against joining lengthy fuel queues, he said the country was down to fuel stocks sufficient for a single day and needed $75 million to pay for essential imports. “We managed to bring in a diesel shipment yesterday,” he said of the government plans to overcome the fuel shortage that has provoked weeks of anti-government protests and resulted in the deaths of 9 people and 300 injured. “Two more diesel shipments under the Indian credit line are due on [May 18] and [June 1],” he said, adding that two petrol shipments would arrive on May 18 and May 29. “We are working to obtain dollars in the open market to pay for these shipments,” he said.

Referring to the power outages that have plagued Sri Lanka, he warned that they could increase to 15 hours a day due to the fuel shortage. However, he added, money has been obtained to avert this crisis. On the gas shortage, he said $20 million were “urgently” needed to provide gas to consumers and said efforts were underway to pay for a gas shipment arriving on Tuesday (today).

Sri Lanka has also reported a shortage of 14 essential medicines, which the prime minister said was a result of a four-month backlog of 34 billion Sri Lankan rupees in payments that were due to suppliers of medicine, medical equipment, and food for patients.

“We will face considerable challenges and adversity,” he said. “However, this will not be for long. In the coming months, our foreign allies will assist us. They have already pledged their support. Last Thursday when I accepted office as the prime minister, I did not do so only as a political leader but also as a national leader who has benefited from free education at the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo,” he added.

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