Sri Lanka needs at least $5 billion this year for essentials

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s prime minister says the country needs at least $ billion over the next six months to pay for essential goods as it faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years.

Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament the money is needed for basic items such as food, fuel, and fertilizer.

In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on its debts with international lenders for the first time in its history.

The country has held bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.

Wickremesinghe, who is also the country’s finance minister, told parliament that more money was required this year to meet Sri Lanka’s basic needs.

He said the island nation, which has a population of around 22 million, requires $3.3bn for fuel imports, $900m for food, $600m for fertilizer, and $250m for cooking gas.

Sri Lankan lawmakers have accepted a $55m loan for fertilizers from India’s Exim Bank.

The United Nations also plans to make a worldwide appeal for Sri Lanka, and has pledged $48m for food, agriculture, and healthcare, Wickremesinghe added.

He also warned of a slowdown in government payments to businesses and workers across the country, as funds are redirected to pay for food supplies.

“A lot of people will be without food, so the food program we are initiating will ensure that all families, even if they have no income, will have food,” Wickremesinghe said.

“We can have community kitchens in temples [and] churches to supply the food. The community has to get involved,” he added.

The South Asian nation will also try to renegotiate a $1.5 billion financial support deal with China, Wickremesinghe said.

Sri Lanka is struggling with its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the UK in 1948.

The country’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, rising energy prices, and populist tax cuts.

A shortage of medicines, fuel, and other essentials has also helped to push the cost of living to record highs.

Image courtesy of (DNA India)

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