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Sri Lanka says it is ‘bankrupt’ as financial crisis ravaging the country deepens

Sri Lanka’s prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Adnan Abidi/Reuters

  • Sri Lanka’s prime minister said on Tuesday that his country was “bankrupt.”
  • One expert blamed government incompetence for the financial crisis ravaging Sri Lanka. 
  • Energy minister says fuel supplies have run out and it is now in talks with the IMF about a bailout.

Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared the country “bankrupt” on Tuesday as its financial crisis deepens.

The economy began to falter in late 2020, which the government blamed on the pandemic but one expert said was mainly caused by political mismanagement and racking up debts with China. 

Sri Lanka defaulted on its debts for the first time in May. Since then, its foreign currency reserves have run out and energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Sunday it had less than a day’s worth of fuel left.

In recent days, people have queued for hours to try to get gas, while the price of basic foodstuffs have more than doubled.

The government has told everyone not working in essential services to work from home to save fuel and has shut schools.

In an attempt to ease the suffering, Sri Lanka recently entered negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to try and save what Wickremesinghe called its “collapsed” economy.

“We are now participating in the negotiations as a bankrupt country,” he said, Reuters reported. “Therefore, we have to face a more difficult and complicated situation than previous negotiations.”

Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka was also in discussions with India, Japan, and China about forming an aid consortium that could intervene if the IMF agreed to help Sri Lanka weather the crisis. 

The UN children’s aid group Unicef told the BBC that Sri Lanka was nearing a humanitarian crisis.

Even before the current crisis, Unicef said Sri Lanka had the second-highest child malnutrition rate in South Asia, with two in five infants not being fed the minimum acceptable diet. 

Last month it launched an appeal to raise $25 million to scale up its response and help 1.7 million vulnerable children in Sri Lanka.

Britain’s Foreign Office has warned against all but essential travel to the country due to the economic crisis.


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