Sri Lanka’s new administration intends to sell the national airline to reduce losses for stabilizing the country’s finances, even though the government is compelled to print money to pay workers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe confirmed that the incoming administration intends to privatize Sri Lankan Airlines.
He stated that the carrier lost $124 million in the fiscal year ending March 2021, just days before the country’s foreign debt is slated to default. “It should not be that this loss has to be borne by the poorest of the poor who have not set foot in an aircraft,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.
Mr. Wickremesinghe said he was compelled to generate money to pay salaries less than a week into the position, putting pressure on the country’s currency. He said the country only has one day’s worth of gasoline and that the government is seeking to obtain dollars on the open market to pay for three ships carrying crude oil and furnace oil anchored in Sri Lankan waters.
He further said, “The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones. We must immediately establish a national assembly or political body with the participation of all political parties to find solutions for the present crisis.” Following violent battles between government supporters and demonstrators demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation, Mr. Wickremesinghe was appointed in May 2022.
However, he has failed to name a Finance Minister to head bailout talks with the IMF and seek bridge financing from countries like India and China. In the absence of a full cabinet, it’s uncertain whether the government will receive the funds. The grace period on two unpaid foreign debts expires on May 11, sending Sri Lanka into default, the latest blow to a country beset by economic suffering and social turmoil.
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