Sri Lanka crisis gets worse as economy grinds to a halt

Sri Lanka crisis gets worse as economy grinds to a halt

The South Asian nation of 22 million people is in its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948

As Sri Lankans faint in day-long queues for fuel and swelter through stifling evening blackouts by candlelight, anger is mounting over the worst economic crisis in living memory.

A critical lack of foreign currency has left the island nation unable to pay for vital imports, leading to dire shortages in everything from life-saving medicines to cement.

Long lines for fuel that start forming before dawn are forums for public grievances, where neighbours complain bitterly about government mismanagement and fret over how to feed their families as food prices skyrocket.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's state-run hospitals are running out of life-saving medicines due to a shortage of dollars needed to import essentials as the country reels from a dire economic crisis, officials said on Tuesday.

Teaching Hospital Peradeniya which serves a population of 2.4 million people in the Central province said it was suspending all routine surgeries and was out of anaesthetic drugs and other essentials for operations.

A key health trade union said the problem at Peradeniya was common in most state hospitals where suppliers had not been paid for over six months.

On the other hand Sri Lanka on Wednesday began imposing record nationwide 10-hour daily power cuts as it ran out of hydro-electricity on top of a severe shortage of fuel.

The South Asian nation of 22 million people is in its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, because of a severe shortage of foreign currency to pay for imports.

The state electricity monopoly said it was imposing the 10-hour power cut, up from a seven-hour outage since the beginning of the month, because there was no oil to power thermal generators.

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More than 40 percent of Sri Lanka's electricity is generated from hydro, but most of the reservoirs were running dangerously low because there had been no rains, officials said.

Most electricity production is from coal and oil. Both are imported but in short supply as the country does not have enough foreign exchange to pay for supplies.

Meanwhile, the main fuel retailer, the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), said there would be no diesel in the country for at least two days.

The CPC told motorists waiting in long queues at petrol stations to leave and return only after imported diesel is unloaded and distributed.

Fuel prices have also been increased frequently with petrol up by 92 per cent and diesel by 76 per cent since the beginning of the year.

The government took 12 days to find $44 million to pay for the latest shipment of LP gas and kerosene, officials said.

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