ex-PM Wick – The New Indian Express

By PTI

COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said political leaders should focus on seeking financial help from a number of countries, including India and China, to pull the nation out debt-ridden islander from its worst economic crisis rather than worry about securing a working majority in Parliament.

Addressing May Day ceremony Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya of the United National Party (UNP) at Colombo’s new town hall on Sunday, Wickremesinghe said the government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should prioritize resolving the economic crisis situation and take immediate action to control the prices of essential goods.

“He should make sure to save the banking system from collapse. He should. We saw how the banking sector collapsed in Greece and the same thing happened in Indonesia in 1998. The government should talk to the ‘India, China, Japan and South Korea asking for help,’ he said.

“Having 113 MPs in Parliament is no longer the solution to the current problem. The country is facing an economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude,” he said, quoted by The Island newspaper. Sri Lanka is in the throes of an economic crisis not seen since its independence from Britain in 1948.

The crisis is caused in part by a lack of foreign currency, which means the country cannot afford to pay for imports of basic foods and fuel, resulting in acute shortages and very high prices.

Months of long blackouts and severe shortages of food, fuel and pharmaceuticals have sparked widespread protests calling for the government to resign.

“The national economy has almost collapsed. Agriculture is in agony without fertilizer. Fishermen have no diesel. Many have lost their jobs. Companies are cutting staff at the expense of their workers. Some have already been closed. Thousands more jobs are likely to be lost,” Wickremesinghe said.

“Medium-sized businesses have collapsed and small businesses are facing the same predicament. The value of money deposited in banks has been lost by about 50 percent. The value of savings in the EPF and ETF decreased by around 50 percent”. There are protests and demonstrations across the country. People are asking the government to go home. The government has lost its mandates received in the 2019 and 2020 elections,” he said.

The former prime minister said that instead of prioritizing solving the current economic crisis, the government was split over whether President Gotabaya or his older brother and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa should step down.

“The current problems cannot be solved by gathering 113 seats in Parliament. The problem, however, could be solved. To this end, income taxes must be increased. Fuel prices and electricity prices should be increased.

“The value of the US dollar which was at Rs.185 rupees will probably rise to Rs.400. Therefore, government expenditure must be curtailed. In the meantime, the government should talk to the international community for assistance,” he said. he declares. mentioned.

Sri Lanka needs at least $4 billion to overcome its growing economic difficulties, and talks with international institutions such as the World Bank as well as countries such as China and Japan for financial assistance are underway.

The country is short of foreign currency to import badly needed essential goods.

Last month, the Sri Lankan government said it would temporarily default on $35.5 billion in foreign debt as the pandemic and war in Ukraine made payments to foreign creditors impossible.

Sri Lanka has requested a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, which could take up to three months to arrive.

Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said earlier in the week that the staff-level deal with the IMF could be reached within the next two months.

The Ministry of Finance has also noticed that registered importers are applying for the $1 billion Indian Line of Credit Facility from the Ministry’s Indian Credit Facility Coordinating Unit (ICFCU).

India has agreed to extend an additional $500 million line of credit to help Sri Lanka import fuel.

New Delhi has also already agreed to defer $1.5 billion in import payments Sri Lanka has to make to the Asian Clearing Union.