Sri Lanka’s newly-appointed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned that the crisis-hit country has run out of petrol and has stock only for a single day.
In his first televised address to the nation after becoming prime minister last week, Wickremesinghe said Monday that his bankrupt country could face more hardships in the coming months.
“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.”
“We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period.”
But two shipments of petrol and two of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide relief in the next few days, the prime minister said.
A diesel shipment using an Indian credit line arrived in the country on Sunday, but is yet to be distributed nationwide.
Wickremesinghe said Sri Lanka needed to secure $75 million in foreign exchange in the next few days to pay for essential imports. The premier said there was also a “grave concern” about the shortage of 14 medicines. “Payments have not been made for four months to suppliers of medicine, medical equipment, and food for patients.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Wickremesinghe pointed to the possibility of power outages lasting up to 15 hours a day. “A quarter of electricity is generated through oil. Therefore, there is a possibility that the daily power outages will increase to 15 hours a day.”
Meanwhile, the power minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, told people not to join the long fuel lines that have galvanized weeks of anti-government protests.
Wickremesinghe took his oath at a ceremony in the president’s office on May 12. The 73-year-old will be tasked with navigating Sri Lanka through the worst economic downturn in its history.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother, resigned as prime minister after his supporters attacked anti-government demonstrators. That unleashed several days of chaos in which at least nine people were killed and hundreds more injured.
It remains to be seen whether a new cabinet will be enough to calm public anger if President Rajapaksa continues to resist calls for his resignation.
Sri Lankans are angry over the worsening economic crisis they believe the government has been mishandling. Critics say the roots of the crisis, the worst in several decades, lie in economic mismanagement by successive governments that amassed huge budget shortfalls and a current account deficit.