A boy stands next to empty cylinders as he waits in a queue to buy domestic gas at a distribution centre in Colombo on Friday. Reuters
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned of a food shortage as the island nation battles a devastating economic crisis and vowed the government will buy enough fertiliser for the next planting season to boost productivity.
A decision in April last year by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to ban all chemical fertilisers drastically cut yields and although the government has reversed the ban, no substantial imports have yet taken place.
“While there may not be time to obtain fertiliser for this Yala (May-August) season, steps are being taken to ensure adequate stocks for the Maha (September-March) season,” Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a message on Twitter. “I sincerely urge everyone to accept the gravity of the … situation.”
Sri Lanka is facing a dire shortage of foreign exchange, fuel and medicines, and economic activity has slowed to a crawl.
“There is no point in talking about how hard life is,” said A.P.D. Sumanavathi, a 60-year-old woman selling fruit and vegetables in the Pettah market in Colombo, the commercial capital, on Friday.
A couple carries a filled domestic cooking gas cylinder after its distribution, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Colombo. Reuters
“I can’t predict how things will be in two months, at this rate we might not even be here. Nearby, a long queue had formed in front of a shop selling cooking gas cylinders, the prices of which have soared.
“Only about 200 cylinders were delivered, even though there were about 500 people,” said Mohammad Shazly, a part-time chauffeur who said he was standing in the line for the third day to be able to cook food for family of five.
“Without gas, without kerosene oil, we can’t do anything,” he said. “Last option what? Without food we are going to die. That will happen hundred percent.”
Sri Lanka closes schools, limits work amid fuel shortage
Sri Lankan authorities on Friday closed schools and asked public officials not to come to work in a desperate move to prepare for an acute fuel shortage that is expected to last days amid the nation’s worst economic crisis in decades.
The Public Administration Ministry asked the public officials — except for those who maintain essential services — not to come to work on Friday “in a view of current fuel shortage and issues in transport facilities” across the country.
State- and government-approved private schools also closed on Friday amid the worsening fuel shortage, with thousands of people waiting in queues at fuel stations across the country for days at a time.
Sri Lanka is now almost without gasoline and faces an acute shortage of other fuels as well.
The government has been struggling to find money to pay for the importation of fuel, gas and other essentials in recent months as the Indian Ocean island nation is on the brink of bankruptcy.
Its economic woes have brought on a political crisis, with the government facing widespread protests.
New cabinet sworn in
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa swore in nine cabinet ministers Friday, raising the total number to thirteen as he attempts to stabilize the government after a string of resignations.
The new ministers include four independent lawmakers, three from the ruling and two from the main opposition. Four ruling party lawmakers were appointed as cabinet ministers last week.
Rajapaksa sought a unity government in early April but the largest opposition political party, the United People’s Force, had rejected the proposal.