Cash-strapped On Friday, Sri Lanka named nine new ministers to a “all-party administration” entrusted with guiding the country out of its economic crisis, but the vital finance job remained unfilled.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe took over earlier this month when the president’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned amid rising demonstrations accusing his administration of driving Sri Lanka’s economy to the verge of collapse.
After the previous government was dissolved, Wickremesinghe promised to form a cross-party coalition. The new ministers for health, education, and justice, among others, were sworn in before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at his well guarded official house in Colombo, according to a brief statement from the government.
Two members of the main opposition SJB party defected to join the new administration. The Sri Lanka Freedom Organization, another opposition party, agreed to back President Rajapaksa and was awarded one portfolio on Friday.
The finance job, which will be responsible for spearheading discussions with the International Monetary Fund regarding a bailout, is still open. The incoming prime minister’s office, though, assured AFP that someone will be named next week. The central bank president cautioned on Thursday that the lack of a finance minister might jeopardise IMF discussions.
Sri Lanka is experiencing its worst-ever foreign exchange deficit, with the government unable to pay even the most basic imports such as food, gasoline, and medications. For months, the country of 22 million people has been experiencing terrible economic distress.
Customers have been unable to obtain petrol, diesel, or cooking gas, and essential foods have been rationed. In addition, the country is experiencing record inflation and continuous power outages.
The government suspended workplaces and schools on Friday as the fuel scarcity disrupted travel across the country. However, sources claimed the government has raised the $53 million required to pay for a fuel supply that landed at the Colombo port this week.
According to officials, retail pumping stations might be supplied over the weekend. The Central Bank of Sri Lanka said on Thursday that it will be unable to begin international debt repayments for at least six months unless the country’s $51 billion external debt is restructured.