|Vehicles queue at a petrol station in Colombo. Ravindu Perera, who lives in the capital Colombo, said he and his family had begun searching for fuel before daybreak on Monday. (Photo by= Reuters)|
[Asia News = Reporter Reakkana] Sri Lanka's new prime minister says the country is down to its last day of petrol as it faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years. In a televised address, Ranil Wickremesinghe said the nation urgently needs $75m (£60.8m) of foreign currency in the next few days to pay for essential imports.
He said the central bank would have to print money to pay government wages. Mr. Wickremesinghe also said state-owned Sri Lankan Airlines may be privatized. The island nation's economy has been hit hard by the 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.
"At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day. The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives," said Mr. Wickremesinghe in Monday's address. However, shipments of petrol and diesel using a credit line with India could provide fuel supplies in the next few days, he added. Mr. Wickremesinghe, who was appointed prime minister last Thursday, said the country's central bank would have to print money to help meet the government's wage bill and other commitments. Appealing to the world for more financial help, he said "there won't be a hunger crisis, we will find food".