No country except India providing money: Lankan PM amid worst economic crisis
Colombo: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Wednesday (June 8, 2022) that no country except India is providing money to crisis-hit Sri Lanka for fuel and underlined that he has urged the IMF to “expedite” its assistance program to the island nation. The conversation between Wickremesinghe, who is also the finance minister, and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund comes as Sri Lanka has decided to seek the assistance of the Washington-based global lender to combat the worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948.
Sri Lanka has already initiated measures to restructure its foreign debts — a prerequisite for an IMF program — after the government suspended all the external debt repayments on April 12.
In his address to Parliament, Wickremesinghe said he had a telephonic conversation with Georgieva on Tuesday during which she was informed of Sri Lanka’s need for bridging finance.
“I requested her to expedite this process because we need bridging finance. Both our arrangement and debt restructuring plan which we are unfamiliar with were discussed,” he said.
“I am doing my best to push forward this and get finance latest by September,” Wickremesinghe added, as his cash-starved government is seeking to find USD 6 billion to keep the country afloat for the next six months.
Referring to a planned strike by the engineers of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), a state-run power entity, Wickremesinghe said, “Please don’t cause blackouts, you can hold placards and strike.”
“If you do so, don’t ask me to ask for help from India. No country is giving us money for fuel and coal. Only India is giving. Our Indian credit line is now nearing its end. We are talking about extending it , he said.
The prime minister said India cannot go on providing aid to Sri Lanka.
“Some in India are asking why they should give us help. They ask us to help ourselves first before they can help us,” Wickremesinghe said.
India has helped Sri Lanka with thousands of tonnes of diesel and petrol to the crisis-hit country, apart from food and medical supplies, to help ease the acute fuel shortage in the debt-ridden island nation.
India extended an additional USD 500 million credit line to Sri Lanka last month to help the neighboring country import fuel as it has been struggling to pay for imports after its foreign exchange reserves plummeted sharply in recent times, causing a devaluation of its currency and spiraling inflation .
With the economic crisis and the shortage of forex, the Indian credit line of USD 500 million for fuel imports has provided a lifeline to the island nation, where people have been queuing up for fuel, cooking gas, and essentials.
In keeping with India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ policy, New Delhi has extended this year alone support worth over USD 3.5 billion to the people of Sri Lanka for helping them overcome their current difficulties.