(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the country’s economy suffered a ‘death blow’ during the 51-day political crisis and is now in the rebuilding process.
Making a special statement in Parliament today, the Premier said the during the 51 day political coup Sri Lanka lost 1 billion US dollars in foreign reserves.
He said that when the United National Party (UNP) led Unity government took over in January 2015, the country was in a dangerous debt trap and the government took steps to systematically escape this debt burden.
The Premier said the government was able to save the port and airport from being taken over by foreign countries from which loans were obtained. However the incidents on the 26th of October once again stalled efforts and a stable economy was hit by the coup.
Wickremesinghe said the government is now struggling to raise $1.9 billion to pay the first installment of $2.6 billion that is due on Monday.
The Premier said during this 51 day period, the rupee depreciated 3.8% and foreign reserves that were 7,991 million US dollars as of the 26th of October, by the end of the coup dropped to 6,984 million US dollars.
The Prime Minister also noted that the government is slated to make the highest repayment of foreign loans in 2019. The Premier said steps will be taken to repay the loans with minimal impact on the country’s people.
The Prime Minister said the government especially tried to pay off the highest amount of debt, with minimal burden on the people in 2019, adding if not for those 51 days foreign reserves would have increased to 8,000 million US dollars.
He said it is a responsibility to ensure that this figure increases to more than what the country had before the 26th of October.
He said the government is scheduled to make the highest repayment of foreign loans in 2019 and measures will be taken to repay the loans with minimal impact on the people.
“If not for this 51 days, we would have been able to bring an end to the debt burden,” the Premier said.
Sri Lanka faces a record $5.9 billion in foreign debt repayments in 2019.
Premier Wickremesinghe said the most important task is to stabilize the rate of the rupee and the government has taken necessary steps, adding several talks have been held with foreign nations in order to provide concessions pertaining to stabilizing the rupee.
The Premier said the government was able to stabilize the rupee within a short time period.
He said several countries consented to helping Sri Lanka, noting that the Bank of India agreed to grant 400 million US dollars to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
He said the government hopes to obtain 500 million US dollars in China’s Panda and Japan’s Samurai bonds, adding they will also obtain 1,000 million US dollars from the International Monetary Fund.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe assured that the government will continue to stabilize and uplift the economy in the face of many challenges expected to arise.
He said this is not an easy task, and hardships will be faced, but the government will forge ahead and table a people friendly Budget.