Ranil Wickremesinghe’s address to the nation highlights Sri Lanka’s economic crisis, privatization of Sri Lankan airlines and fuel crisis

New Delhi: In a first public address after being elected the new Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Monday that the Sri Lankan economy at present is “extremely precarious”. He also offered to privatize Sri Lankan airlines which are suffering significant losses, the ANI news agency reported.

Criticizing the previous government, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said: “Although the former government’s budget projected revenues of SLR 2.3 trillion, SLR 1.6 trillion is the realistic projection for this year’s revenue.”

“Estimated government expenditure for this year is SLR 3.3 trillion. However, due to the increase in interest rates and additional ex-government expenditure, the total government expenditure is SLR 4 trillion. of SLR. The budget deficit for the year is SLR 2.4 trillion. This amount is equivalent to 13% of GDP,” he added.

Stating that a new “concessional budget” is to be provided as an alternative to the 2022 development budget, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said: “I propose to privatize Sri Lankan Airlines which is suffering significant losses. The loss for 2020-2021 amounts alone at SLR 45. As of March 31, 2021, the total loss was 372 billion.Even if we privatize Sri Lankan Airlines, it is a loss that we have to bear.

Highlighting the cabinet’s decision to submit a proposal to parliament to increase the approved limit for the issuance of treasury bills from 3 trillion to 4 trillion, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said: “The approved debt ceiling is 3,200 billion SLR. By the 2nd week of May, we had spent 1,950 billion. , the rest is 1250 billion SLR.”

“In November 2019, our foreign exchange reserves stood at $7.5 billion. However, today it is a challenge for the Treasury to find $1 million. The Ministry of Finance is struggling to raise the $5 million needed to import gas,” he said.

Addressing the audience, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said: “We face several serious concerns. To ease the queues, we need to get around $75 million in the next few days. At the moment, we only have gasoline stocks for one day. to the diesel shipment that arrived that day, the shortage of diesel will be solved to some extent.”

“A quarter of the electricity is produced using oil. Therefore, it is possible that daily power cuts will increase to up to 15 hours a day. However, we have already obtained money to avoid this crisis. We We also need to immediately get $20 million to provide gas to consumers,” he added.

Sri Lanka is going through its biggest economic crisis since its independence in 1948. Long queues for petrol, cooking gas and other basics have formed due to a catastrophic shortage of foreign funds , while power outages and rising food costs added to people’s agony.

The economic crisis has caused a political crisis in Sri Lanka, with demands for the resignation of the powerful Rajapaksas.

On Thursday, 73-year-old United National Party (UNP) leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was named Sri Lanka’s 26th prime minister. The country has been without a government since Monday, when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after violence erupted following his supporters’ attack on anti-government protesters.

(With ANI inputs)

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