Cash-strapped Lanka on last day of gasoline, PM says

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s new prime minister won crucial support from both main opposition parties on Monday, easing pressure on the ruling Rajapaksa clan in the face of the island’s worsening economic crisis. But highlighting the dire situation still facing Sri Lanka’s 22 million people, Ranil Wickremesinghe said the country had run out of gas and “the next few months will be the most difficult of our lives.”
Wickremesinghe said the country urgently needed $75 million in foreign exchange to pay for essential imports, but the country’s treasury is struggling to find even $1 billion. “I have no desire to hide the truth and lie to the public. . . At the moment, we only have a single day’s supply of gasoline,” he said in an address to the nation. Two shipments of gasoline and two of diesel using an Indian credit line could provide relief in the coming days, he added, but the country also faces a shortage of 14 essential medicines. He also warned that fuel and electricity rates will rise substantially.
The main opposition party, SJB, appeared to drop its demands that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa step down before backing a coalition to manage the crumbling economy. The SJB refused to join a Wickremesinghe-led unity government, but said it would “unconditionally support positive efforts to revive the economy”. “It is important to save the country from the serious economic crisis,” he said in a brief statement. And the second largest opposition party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), said it would join the cabinet.
Even so, thousands of protesters remained camped outside the office of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. “My goal is not to save an individual, a family or a party. My goal is to save the people of this country,” Wickremesinghe said.

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