World

Worse still to come, Sri Lanka’s new PM warns

May 13, 2022
Ranil Wickremesinghe
Ranil Wickremesinghe

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka's new prime minister has said an economic crisis that has brought misery and unrest is "going to get worse before it gets better".

The country is facing fuel shortages and soaring food prices, with some Sri Lankans forced to skip meals.

Anger over the government's handling of the crisis has led to violent protests.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed in an attempt to defuse the protests. It is the opposition MP's sixth stint as prime minister.

In his first interview since taking office, Wickremesinghe told the BBC he would ensure families get three meals a day.

Appealing to the world for more financial help, he said "there won't be a hunger crisis, we will find food".

The new PM described the Sri Lankan economy as "broken", but he said his message to Sri Lankans was to "be patient, I will bring things back".

Wickremesinghe was sworn-in by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday, but his appointment has largely been met with dismay, as he is seen as too close to the politically dominant Rajapaksa family.

In his interview, Wickremesinghe said he agreed with the sentiment of protestors who've been calling for President Rajapaksa to resign, but said that would not happen. "Blaming won't lead to action, I'm here to see people nourished," he said.

Sri Lanka's economy is in freefall. Food, medicine and fuel have run out or become unaffordable. Some people have died waiting at petrol stations to fill up their tanks.

It is the island nation's worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.

"We don't have kerosene, we don't have petrol, we don't have diesel, we don't have cooking gas and we don't even have access to wood-fired stoves," a 68-year-old woman in the Sri Lankan capital Columbo told AFP.

"We are struggling everyday to feed our children. Food prices have tripled in the past few days. How are we supposed to manage?"

At the heart of Sri Lanka's economic woes is that the country is heavily reliant on imports but has been burning through the foreign currency reserves it needs to pay for them.

The economy suffered in the Covid pandemic and tourism was hit by the 2019 church bombings. But experts have also blamed economic mismanagement too. — BBC


May 13, 2022
760 views
HIGHLIGHTS
World
21 minutes ago

UN rights chief concludes China trip with promise of improved relations

World
24 minutes ago

People for Peace: Breaking prison barriers in Central African Republic

World
40 minutes ago

Plane with 22 people on board missing in Nepal's mountains