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The 22 million-person crisis-hit nation of Sri Lanka is down to barely 15,000 tons of gasoline and diesel to keep vital services running in the coming days, according to a top government minister on Sunday.
With foreign exchange reserves at historic lows and the island wilting under its worst financial crisis in seven decades, it is scrambling to pay for essential imports like fuel, food, and medication.
“Finding suppliers is a challenge for us. Letters of credit from our institutions are not readily accepted there. As a result, suppliers now request advance payments due to the over $700 million in past due payments, “Kanchana Wijesekera, the minister of power and energy, said to reporters.
A $500 million Indian credit line that Sri Lanka had access to for the previous two months ran out in the middle of June. According to Wijesekera, a cargo of gasoline slated to arrive last Thursday did not, and no new supplies are currently scheduled.
“About 9,000 metric tons of diesel and 6,000 metric tons of gasoline are still available. Although we are making every effort, we are unsure when additional stocks will be available.”
But in the early hours of Sunday, Sri Lanka likewise implemented a 12–20% rise in the price of gasoline. As a result, may’s price increase increased inflation to 45.3%, the highest level since 2015.
The government will concentrate on distributing the remaining inventories for public transportation, electricity generation, and medical services, Wijesekera said. Hence, people currently waiting in miles-long, snaking lines outside pumps are unlikely to acquire fuel.
He said that ports and airports would receive fuel rationing. The military, which has previously been stationed at fuel stations to control disturbances, will now hand out tokens to those waiting, sometimes for days.
A million or so public employees were advised to work from home until further notice by the government on Sunday.
The US Treasury and State Departments sent a group to Colombo on Sunday for a three-day assessment of the situation. For discussions over a potential $3 billion rescue package, a team from the International Monetary Fund is already in Sri Lanka.