Sri Lanka closes schools and limits work due to fuel shortage
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan authorities have closed schools and asked civil servants not to come to work in a desperate move to prepare for a severe fuel shortage that is expected to last for days amid the worst crisis. economy of the country for decades.
The Ministry of Public Administration asked civil servants – except those maintaining essential services – to stay at home on Friday “in view of the current shortage of fuel and problems in transport facilities” across the country. country.
State and government-approved private schools also closed on Friday amid worsening fuel shortages, with thousands of people lining up at gas stations across the country for days at a time. .
Sri Lanka is now almost without gasoline and also faces a severe shortage of other fuels.
The government has struggled to find money to pay for the import of fuel, gas and other essentials in recent months as the Indian Ocean island nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.
Its economic difficulties caused a political crisis, with the government facing widespread protests.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in to nine ministers on Friday, bringing the total number to 13 as he tries to stabilize the government after a series of resignations.
The new ministers include four independent lawmakers, three from the ruling party and two from the main opposition party. Four lawmakers from the ruling party were appointed ministers last week.
Rajapaksa called for a unity government in early April, but the largest opposition political party, the United People’s Force, rejected the proposal.
For months, Sri Lankans have endured long queues to buy these necessities, most of which come from abroad. Hard currency shortages have also hampered imports of raw materials for manufacturing and aggravated inflation.
Protesters blocked major roads to demand petrol and fuel, and TV stations showed residents in some areas fighting over limited supplies.
Authorities have announced nationwide power cuts of up to four hours a day because they cannot supply enough fuel to power plants.
Sri Lanka has suspended repayment of about $7 billion in foreign loans due this year out of the $25 billion to be repaid by 2026. The country’s total external debt is $51 billion. The Ministry of Finance says the country currently has only $25 million in usable foreign exchange reserves.
Protesters have occupied the entrance to the president’s office for more than a month, calling for Rajapaksa’s resignation.
Months of anti-government rallies have led to the near dismantling of the once-powerful ruling family, with one of the president’s brothers stepping down as prime minister, and other siblings and a nephew quitting their cabinet posts. Protesters accuse the Rajapaksas of triggering the crisis through corruption and mismanagement.
Sri Lanka’s new prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said on Monday some $75 billion was urgently needed to help deliver essential items, but the country’s treasury is struggling to find even more. a billion dollars.
Attacks by Rajapaksa supporters on protesters last week sparked nationwide violence that left nine dead – including a lawmaker – and more than 200 injured. The homes of lawmakers and their supporters were burned down.