SRI LANKA: The Sri Lankan president office stated on Wednesday that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will assume a dual responsibility as finance minister and will lead talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout for the crisis-hit country.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa swore in Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as finance, economic stabilisation, and national policies minister this morning, according to a statement from the president's office. Wickremesinghe said he will release an interim budget within six weeks, reducing infrastructure projects to redirect funding into a two-year relief programme, in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka, a 22-million-strong island nation, is experiencing its biggest economic crisis since its 1948 independence, with a severe lack of foreign exchange halting imports, including essentials like fuel and medicines. The COVID-19 outbreak, which destroyed the country's lucrative tourism economy and reduced foreign workers' remittances, and Rajapaksa's ill-timed tax cuts are to blame for the chaos.
Since late March, demonstrators have been raging in Sri Lanka, accusing the president and his wealthy family of mismanaging the economy. Wickremesinghe was sworn in for a sixth term two weeks ago, when the president's elder brother, Mahinda, resigned from the position. Wickremesinghe is a political veteran who has served as Prime Minister five times.