Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced that his country's economy, which has been experiencing the worst crisis in its history for months, has collapsed and that it cannot even pay for oil imports.
"Our economy has completely collapsed. That is the most serious issue before us today," Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said in a speech to parliament, adding that Sri Lanka is facing a serious situation involving shortages of fuel, gas, electricity, and food.
Noting they are unable to even pay for oil imports, Wickremesinghe said the government missed an opportunity to reverse the crisis. Citizens of Sri Lanka, which is facing the biggest economic crisis in its history, went on strike in late March this year due to a power outage that lasted 13 hours a day.
“Currently, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation is $700 million in debt,” he told lawmakers. “As a result, no country or organization in the world is willing to provide fuel to us. They are even reluctant to provide fuel for cash”.
At the end of March, protests were held across the country due to several hours of power outages and shortages of food, fuel, and other vital goods after the shortage of foreign currency led to the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
Power outages in the country last up to 13 hours a day.
Clashes between government supporters and protesters
Clashes erupted on May 9, and military units were called to the capital, Colombo. “If steps had at least been taken to slow down the collapse of the economy at the beginning, we would not be facing this difficult situation today.
But we lost out on this opportunity. We are now seeing signs of a possible fall to rock bottom,” he said. Amid growing opposition pressure, Mahinda Rajapaksa has resigned as prime minister. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa then appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister on May 12, having previously held the post on three occasions.
The government has declared a curfew across the country and ordered soldiers to open fire on anyone who plunders public property or causes damage. “We have concluded the initial discussions and we have exchanged ideas on various sectors such as public finance, finance, debt sustainability, stability of the banking sector, and the social security network,” Wickremesinghe said.
Eight people were killed in protests across the country, including a ruling party lawmaker and two police officers, and nearly 250 people were injured.