Sri Lanka: No Medicines, 10-Hour Power Cuts as Economic Crisis Deepens
The Sri Lankan government has extended the duration of daily power cuts to 10 a.m., refiners have advised citizens not to queue at petrol stations as diesel runs out, and public hospitals have no enough life-saving medicines as the country’s foreign exchange shortage worsens in a deepening humanitarian crisis.
“It’s a sad day,” Morning newspaper Janaka Ratnayake, chairman of Sri Lanka’s Public Utilities Commission, told reporters in Colombo on Tuesday after increasing power cuts by seven hours a day.
Ceylon Petroleum asked the public not to queue for diesel on Wednesday and Thursday after the state refiner failed to unload a shipment of 37,500 metric tons of fuel. Agence France-Presse interviewed doctors and health workers who spoke of severe shortages of lifesaving drugs and diagnostic chemicals imported to the island nation. Sri Lanka, whose trade deficit doubled to $1.1 billion in December, had about $2.3 billion in foreign exchange reserves last month and faces a $1 billion bond repayment dollars in July. The authorities devalued the local currency, curbed imports and raised fuel prices and interest rates in an effort to control the spiraling crisis.
Stock trading was briefly halted for the second straight day on Wednesday after a key index plunged 5%. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa this month dropped his resistance to a loan from the International Monetary Fund.