Sri Lanka is running out of gas

Sri Lanka announced that it had run out of petroleum reserves and could not find a source of finance to import essential goods.

“We have run out of petrol, we have just enough fuel for a day,” Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said today, saying the government could not find enough foreign exchange to pay for three oil tankers anchored off the port of Colombo and warned the country could face more difficulties in the near future.

Cars and motorcycles line up to buy petrol in the capital Colombo on May 15.  Photo: AFP

Cars and motorcycles line up to buy petrol in the capital Colombo on May 15. Picture: AFP

Sri Lanka is facing the worst economic crisis in its history. 22 million people live with severe food, fuel and medicine shortages, record inflation and ongoing power outages.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe took office on May 12 after his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned under pressure from a wave of protests over the failure to resolve the economic crisis. “The next few months will be the most difficult months of our lives. I don’t want to hide the truth and lie in front of the people,” Mr Wickremesinghe said.

Sri Lanka’s prime minister urged people to “suffer patiently in the coming months” and pledged to guide the country through the crisis while announcing the state budget had run out of money to pay 1.4 million in May wages to pay officials, and he had to decide to print more money.

Mr Wickremesinghe warned of rising fuel and electricity taxes and the sale of the loss-making national airline. Sri Lanka is negotiating an aid package with the International Monetary Fund. The condition of the loan was that the government divest loss-making state-owned companies, including Sri Lanka Airlines, the national airline with cumulative losses of more than $1 billion.

Hong Hanh (Corresponding AFP)