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Sri Lanka Needs Food, Fuel & Fertilizers Before Country Comes To A Halt By May: Ex-PM Wickremesinghe

Appealing to India, he said, Sri Lanka at this time requires “dollars, food, fuel, medicines, and most importantly the fertilizers to start moving”.

New Delhi: Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday said that the debt-torn country landed into a major economic depression as the country lost the major revenue receipts in 2019. This, he claimed, began with the decrease of the Value Added Tax and the government’s refusal to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Speaking to India Ahead, he said, “When we (Sri Lanka) saw this crisis coming in 2021, we did not go to the IMF. We needed about two billion dollars and almost every country (in crisis sought help). In 2021, there was a drop in foreign exchange as well”.

He said that this is the worse economic crisis that has struck Sri Lanka in the last 300 years. “The Rajapaksas did not focus on the economy. They gave a benefit to the private sector by reducing taxes and these were some of the populist measures, they took,” he said underlining the need for immediate assistance.

He went on to say that if Sri Lanka had sought the IMF in 2020, most of the harm may have been prevented. Wickremesinghe stated that, given the Ukrainian war and ensuing global food shortages, this was a moment when Sri Lanka might have capitalised on its rice crop, as the country also had a huge export capability.

“Due to the Ukrainian war, there has been a shortage of food globally,” he said adding that if the government had not re-engineered its farming sector, Sri Lanka would not have had to import the rice and people would not have had to buy the same at high prices.

Appealing to India, he said, Sri Lanka at this time requires “dollars, food, fuel, medicines, and most importantly the fertilizers to start moving”.

China which holds 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total loan has a debt trap mechanism. As per the former PM, “they (China) would give you another loan to repay a loan,” unlike India which either waives off the loan or extends the duration for the repayment.

He went on to say that the difficulty is that Sri Lanka has yet to reach a financial aid agreement with the IMF and that until those monies arrive, there is a severe and urgent need for the aforementioned products, or else “the country will grind to a halt by the end of May.”

He added that the worse part of the economic depression is yet to hit the country. “There may be banks which will collapse too,” he said adding that there has been an anti-US and anti-IMF sentiment among various countries. Sri Lanka which had a “complete lack of direction” too followed this trend sadly, he said.

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