Colombo: Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe plans to sell the state-owned Sri Lankan Airlines to stabilize the island nation’s finances amid the ongoing economic crisis.
In a televised address to the nation, Wickremesinghe said: “I propose to privatize Sri Lankan Airlines which is incurring extensive losses. The loss for the year 2020-2021 alone amounts to 45 billion LKR ($129.5 million). By March 31, 2021, the total loss was at 372 billion LKR.
“Even if we privatize Sri Lankan Airlines, this is a loss that we must bear. You must be aware that this is a loss that must be borne even by the poor people of this country who have never stepped on an airplane.”
As the country is facing the worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, the Prime Minister said that the “next couple of months will be the most difficult ones in the lives of all citizens and the country must prepare to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period”, Daily Mirror reported.
He said the country, which also witnessed bouts of massive violence last week which led to the killing of nine people and the resignation of former Prime Mahinda Rajapaksa, urgently needs $75 million of foreign currency in the next few days to pay for essential imports.
Wickremesinghe said the country’s central bank would have to print money to help meet the government’s wage bill and other commitments.
The island nation’s economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, rising energy prices, and populist tax cuts. A chronic shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation had led to a severe shortage of medicines, fuel, and other essentials.