(CMR) Sri Lanka's new prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced Monday that the country was down to its last day of petrol as it faced its worst economic crisis in over 70 years.
Wickremesinghe, appealing to the world for financial assistance to avert a hunger crisis, said the nation urgently needs $75m (£60.8m) of foreign currency in the next few days to pay for essential imports, BBC reported.
Mr. Wickremesinghe, who was appointed prime minister last Thursday, said, “Against my own wishes, I am compelled to permit printing money in order to pay state-sector employees and to pay for essential goods and services. However, we must remember that printing money leads to the depreciation of the rupee.”
According to BBC, the island nation's economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, rising energy prices, and populist tax cuts. A chronic shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation had led to a severe shortage of medicines, fuel, and other essentials.
Mr. Wickremesinghe said the central bank would have to print money to pay government wages and that the state-owned Sri Lankan Airlines may be privatised.
Ravindu Perera, who lives in the capital Colombo, told BBC that he and his family had begun searching for fuel before daybreak on Monday.
“We went to several fuel stations, and most of them were closed. At around 5.30 am, we took a chance and joined a queue at Townhall, which is the station usually providing fuel for government vehicles,” he said.
“It was less crowded – but the queue gradually grew to about 2km long. We were lucky enough to get fuel around 9.00 am once fuel was delivered,” he added
“At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day. The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.
Shipments of petrol and diesel using a credit line with India could provide fuel supplies in the next few days, he added.
The former prime minister resigned last week after government supporters clashed with protesters. Nine people died, and more than 300 were wounded in the violence.