Sri Lanka suspends fuel sales for two weeks as economic crisis deepens | Sri Lanka
Cash-strapped Sri Lanka announced a two-week halt to all fuel sales except essential services and called for a partial shutdown as its unprecedented economic crisis deepened.
The South Asian nation is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948 and has been unable to fund even essential imports since late last year.
As fuel supplies hit rock bottom with supplies barely sufficient for another day, government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana said the sales ban was aimed at saving petrol and diesel in the event of an emergency. ’emergency.
He urged the private sector to let employees work from home, with public transport at a standstill.
“As of midnight today, no fuel will be sold except for essential services like the health sector, as we want to conserve the small reserves we have,” Gunawardana said in a pre-recorded statement.
He apologized to consumers for the shortages: “We regret the inconvenience caused to the public.”
The country is also facing record inflation and long blackouts, all of which have contributed to months of protests – sometimes violent – calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.
Last week, all public schools were closed and public institutions operated with reduced staff to reduce travel and conserve oil.
The public sector shutdown was due to end this week, but has now been extended until July 10, when Gunawardana has promised to restore fuel supplies.
On Sunday, the government promised to introduce a token system to ration the distribution of limited fuel stocks, but it failed to take off.
There were long queues in front of the few pumping stations still supplied.
Sri Lanka seeks cheap oil from Russia and Qatar.
Earlier this month, the United Nations launched an emergency response to the island’s unprecedented economic crisis, feeding thousands of pregnant women facing food shortages.
Four out of five people in Sri Lanka have started skipping meals because they cannot afford to eat, the UN has said, warning of a ‘serious humanitarian crisis’ looming with millions in need of food. assistance.
Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.