Sri Lanka’s newly elected Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday said that the crisis-hit island nation has run out of petrol and warned that the residents could face more hardships in the coming months, Newswire reported.
“At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day,” Wickremesinghe said in an address to the nation. “The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives. We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period.”
The country, Wickremesinghe added, needs $75 million in foreign exchange to pay for essential imports.
Two shipments of petrol and two of diesel using an Indian credit line could help ease the shortage in the next few days, he said.
In his address, the prime minister also said that country is facing a shortage of 14 essential medicines.
“There is a severe shortage of a number of medicines including medicine required for heart disease as well as surgical equipment,” he said. “Payments have not been made for four months to suppliers of medicine, medical equipment, and food for patients.”
The economic crisis forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to appoint Wickremesinghe as the island nation’s prime minister on May 12 after a week of violent clashes between government supporters and protestors killed nine and wounded more than 300. The president’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, quit as the prime minister on May 9 as the violence escalated.
In his address on Monday, Wickremesinghe urged Sri Lankans to “patiently bear the next couple of months” and promised that he could overcome the economic meltdown.
The prime minister said he had forced to permit printing money in order to pay state-sector employees and for essential goods and services.
“However, we must remember that printing money leads to the depreciation of the rupee,” he added. “Under the current circumstances, even the Petroleum Corporation and the Electricity Board are unable to obtain rupees.”
Wickremesinghe warned that residents could suffer power outages for as long as 15 hours a day.
“The situation of kerosene and furnace oil is even more urgent,” he said. “ At present, the Central Bank, local state and private banks, and foreign banks functioning in Sri Lanka are all facing a dollar shortage. As you are already aware, we possess a very low amount of US dollars.”
The government will soon present a new alternative budget, Wickremesinghe said.
“We will build a nation without queues for kerosene, gas, and fuel, a nation free of power outages, a nation with plentiful resources where agriculture can freely flourish, a nation where the future of the youth is secure, a nation where people’s labour need not be wasted in queues and in struggles; a nation where everyone can lead their lives freely with three square meals a day,” he said during his address.