Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn-in as the finance minister of the island nation on Wednesday, PTI reported, citing an official statement.

Wickremesinghe’s appointment as the finance minister came at a time when Sri Lanka is discussing restructuring of its debt with the International Monetary Fund.

Sri Lanka had approached the International Monetary Fund for a bailout after announcing that it would default on its entire external debt worth $51 billion (over 3.88 lakh crore Indian rupees).

A country’s external debt pertains to the money borrowed by it from foreign lenders through commercial banks, governments or international financial institutions. Debt restructuring allows a company or a nation in financial distress to reduce or renegotiate lower interest rates on loans taken or extend payment due dates.

The island nation is battling its most devastating economic crisis since 1948. An inflation rate spiralling towards 40% along with shortages of medicines, milk powder, cooking gas, kerosene and other essential items have sparked nationwide protests. Nine persons have been killed in violent clashes between government supporters and protestors.

The economic crisis had forced Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign as the prime minister on May 9. Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the prime minister on May 12. A new Cabinet was appointed in the following week, except for the finance minister.

On May 16, Wickremesinghe had allowed authorities to print money to pay state-sector employees. However, he had warned that this would lead to the depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee.

The government will soon present a new alternative budget, he has said.