Sri Lanka’s prime minister tackles thorny finances, economy

May 24, 2022, 11:13 PM | Updated: May 25, 2022, 8:09 pm
In this handout photograph provided by the Sri Lankan President's Office, President Gotabaya Rajapa...

In this handout photograph provided by the Sri Lankan President's Office, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, right, greets prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe during the latter's oath taking ceremony as the new finance minister in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Sri Lankan President's Office via AP)

(Sri Lankan President's Office via AP)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as finance minister as this Indian Ocean island nation confronts its worst economic crisis in memory.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa named Wickremesinghe minister of Finance, Economic Stability and National Policies in an apparent bid to regain Sri Lanka’s credibility as the government negotiates a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund.

Sri Lankans have been enduring shortages of food and fuel, power outages and other privations. The country lacks the financial wherewithal to buy imported necessities and pay its debts, and the economic crisis has fueled political turmoil, with protesters demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation.

Wickremesinghe’s appointment followed a government announcement that Sri Lanka was hiring firms to restructure its $51 billion external debt. Lazard of France will provide financial advice and Clifford Chance LLP will assist with legal help in restructuring Sri Lanka’s debts to international creditors.

A five-time former prime minister, Wickremesinghe was appointed to the post two weeks ago after his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa — who is the president’s elder brother — resigned following violent attacks by his supporters on peaceful anti-government protesters.

Sri Lankans for months have been forced to stand in long lines to buy scarce essentials, with many returning home empty-handed. There is a severe shortage of many goods, from food, cooking gas, medicine and fuel to toilet paper and matchsticks.

The economy has suffered under the pandemic, which has kept tourists away, and surging costs for most imports.

Nearly bankrupt, the country has suspended repayments of $7 billion in foreign loans due this year. The IMF has said any short or long-term assistance will hinge on talks with creditors on restructuring loans. Sri Lanka must repay about $25 billion in foreign loans by 2026.

The finance ministry said earlier this month that the country’s usable foreign reserves had plummeted to $25 million.

Wickremesinghe, 73, has been in Parliament for 45 years. His political party split in 2020 amid a leadership crisis and its most senior members left to form a new party, which is currently the country’s main opposition.

He said last week that petrol stocks had dwindled to a single day, but shipments of gasoline paid for by an Indian credit line started arriving over the weekend.

Protesters have been occupying the entrance to the president’s office for more than 40 days demanding Rajapaksa’s resignation.

Attacks on peaceful protesters by government supporters triggered countrywide riots in which nine people died including a lawmaker and 200 were hurt. Homes and properties of government ministers and their supporters were burned down. The violence has nearly dismantled the Rajapaksa dynasty after Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister.

Apart from being tasked with reviving the economy, Wickremesinghe is working on a constitutional amendment to dilute presidential powers and better empower the Parliament.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Abortion-rights activists protest outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Saturday, June 25...
Associated Press

Clinics scramble to divert patients as states ban abortion

They call her, desperate, scared and often broke. Some are rape and domestic violence victims. Others are new mothers, still breastfeeding infants. Another pregnancy so soon, they say, is something they just can’t handle. “Heart wrenching,” said Angela Huntington, an abortion navigator for Planned Parenthood in Missouri, who is helping callers reschedule canceled abortion appointments […]
22 hours ago
A man pays his respects at the site where officials found dozens of people dead in a semitrailer co...
Associated Press

San Antonio migrant deaths lead to slow effort to ID victims

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Victims have been found with no identification documents at all and in one case a stolen ID. Remote villages lack phone service to reach family members and determine the whereabouts of missing migrants. Fingerprint data has to be shared and matched by different governments. More than a day after the discovery […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: June 29, first trans-Pacific flight

Today in History Today is Wednesday, June 29, the 180th day of 2022. There are 185 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On June 29, 1613, London’s original Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed, was destroyed by a fire sparked by a cannon shot during a performance of “Henry […]
22 hours ago
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is seen reflected on a glass ceiling while speaking during her primary e...
Associated Press

Takeaways from first primaries since Roe v. Wade overturned

NEW YORK (AP) — A rare Republican who supports abortion rights found success in Colorado in the first primary elections held since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, while New York’s first female governor positioned herself to become a major voice in the post-Roe landscape. In Illinois, Democrats helped boost a Republican gubernatorial candidate […]
22 hours ago
A technician monitors the self-driving taxi developed by tech giant Baidu Inc. on June 14, 2022, in...
Associated Press

China’s Baidu races Waymo, GM to develop self-driving cars

BEIJING (AP) — With no one at the wheel, a self-driving taxi developed by tech giant Baidu Inc. is rolling down a Beijing street when its sensors spot the corner of a delivery cart jutting into its lane. The taxi stops a half-car-length away. “So sorry,” a recorded voice tells passengers. The steering wheel turns […]
22 hours ago
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies as the ...
Associated Press

1/6 Takeaways: Angry Trump, dire legal warnings and ketchup

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Jan. 6 committee held a surprise hearing Tuesday delivering alarming new testimony about Donald Trump’s angry, defiant and vulgar actions as he ignored repeated warnings against summoning the mob to the Capitol and then refused to intervene to stop the deadly violence as rioters laid siege. Witness Cassidy Hutchinson, a […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Sri Lanka’s prime minister tackles thorny finances, economy