Sri Lanka has been facing an acute shortage of fuel and other essential items. The citizens of the country are protesting against the President. The government urges its overseas citizens to send money for help. The island nation is desperate to get food and fuel after announcing a default on its $51 billion foreign debt.
Sri Lanka has been passing through one of its worst economic upheavals. Severe shortages of necessary goods have further intensified the people’s hardships.
Anger among the general public is soaring. Their spirited protest demanded the resignation of the current government of the country.
At this crucial juncture, central bank governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said he needed Sri Lankans abroad to “support the country at this crucial juncture by donating much needed foreign exchange”.
His appeal came a day after the government announced it was suspending repayments on all external debt, which would free up money to replenish scant supplies of petrol, pharmaceuticals and other necessities.
Bank accounts to be set up
Weerasinghe said he had set up bank accounts for donations in the United States, Britain, and Germany and promised Sri Lankan expatriates the money would be spent where it was most needed.
The bank “assures that such foreign currency transfers will be utilised only for the importation of essentials, including food, fuel, and medicines,” Weerasinghe said in a statement.
He said Tuesday’s default announcement would save Sri Lanka about $200 million in interest payments falling due on Monday, adding that the money would be diverted to pay for essential imports.
Weerasinghe’s appeal has so far been greeted with scepticism from Sri Lankans abroad.
No trust in government
“We don’t mind helping, but we can’t trust the government with our cash,” a Sri Lankan doctor in Australia said, asking for anonymity.
A Sri Lankan software engineer in Canada said he had no confidence that the money would be spent on the needy.
“This could go the same way as the tsunami funds,” he said, referring to millions of dollars the island received in aid after the December 2004 disaster, which claimed at least 31,000 lives on the island.
The overseas cash donations were for the survivors and needy people, but as it was rumoured to have gone into the pockets of politicians, including current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was forced to return tsunami aid funds credited to his personal account.
Sri Lanka’s economy started gripping after the deadly coronavirus pandemic because tourists stopped coming in large numbers. Tourism is the main source of income for the government.
People have to wait for their turn to take fuel. At least eight people have lost their lives while waiting in a queue to get fuel since March.
Economists say the crisis has been made worse by government mismanagement, years of accumulated borrowing, and ill-advised tax cuts.
People are incessantly shouting against the president of Sri Lanka. They were camped outside the house of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s seafront office in the capital, Colombo, demanding his resignation. Some people tried to barge into the houses of government leaders. Police threw tear gas to disperse the crowd.