Sri Lanka Confronts Fuel Shortages
As Sri Lanka’s economic nightmare continues, the country’s fuel supply is shrinking—and authorities are struggling to cope.
As fuel shortages plague the country, the government has enacted strict nationwide energy-saving measures while it searches for alternative sources. Just this week, Sri Lankan officials announced that they would ban fuel sales for private vehicles until July 10. To limit fuel use, schools have also been closed and the public has been told to work from home.
“Sri Lanka has never faced such a severe economic crisis in its history,” Bandula Gunawardana, the cabinet’s spokesman, told reporters.
For months, Sri Lankans have both suffered under and demonstrated against skyrocketing inflation, severe power cuts, and food shortages, which many attribute to the government’s bungled policies and broader economic mismanagement. Aftershocks from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have only compounded these challenges, and the government defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time in May.
The roots of this crisis date back more than a decade, as the journalist Devana Senanayake reported in Foreign Policy in April. In 2009, Sri Lankan authorities received new loans for infrastructure projects, she wrote, but didn’t have enough money to pay them back after a number of economic shocks.
Now, ordinary citizens are the ones paying the price. “The price of petrol is my husband’s daily earnings. Words fail me when I have to describe the daily expenses,” a woman named Champika told Senanayake. “We find it hard to source money for even one meal.”
As the situation deteriorates, the government has been scrambling to find workaround solutions. On Tuesday, an official traveled to Qatar in a bid to secure a new energy agreement; This weekend, another minister is scheduled to visit Russia. Separately, the government has also been discussing a possible multibillion dollar bailout with the International Monetary Fund.
But given the country’s current economic state, developing new partnerships may prove difficult.
“We are struggling to find suppliers. They are reluctant to accept letters of credit from our banks,” Sri Lankan Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said on Sunday. “We are doing everything we can to get new stocks but we don’t know when that will be.”
Source: New York Times
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