Colombo, Apr 26 (EFE).- Sri Lanka said Tuesday that it would begin granting so-called ‘golden visas’ to foreigners who deposit $100,000 in its banks in a bid to attract foreign currency and ease an acute economic crisis that has sparked a wave of protests and political instability.
This program grants foreigners a 10-year residence, while purchasing a $75,000-property on the island will make investors eligible for a visa for between five and 10 years.
“The Cabinet has approved a proposal to issue long-term visas to foreigners who buy apartments,” newly appointed government spokesperson Nalaka Godahewa told a press conference.
The announcement, however, has caused skepticism in Sri Lanka’s tourism sector.
“We have already tarnished our name as a country by lacking electricity, fuel, essential medicines, cooking gas, and food shortages,” a private operator told Efe on condition of anonymity.
“Do you think a judicious foreign investor will invest in an apartment with dollars?” he said.
The island nation is facing an unprecedented economic crisis caused by a combination of severe debt, the economic downturn during the pandemic and a massive drop in tourist activity.
With foreign exchange reserves abysmally low, the island nation is struggling to import essential goods like food, fuel, cooking gas, and medicine, and is facing power cuts of up to 13 hours a day.
The devaluation of its currency sent inflation soaring to a record 21.5 percent in March.
The government announced that it has opened talks to seek urgent economic assistance from the International Monetary Fund, even though the latter held the initial view that the country does not fulfil the criteria for this measure.
The negotiations began a week after Sri Lanka temporarily suspended foreign debt payments since it could not pay any of the $51 billion worth of debts after running out of foreign currency reserves.
Sri Lanka has been gripped by nationwide protests since late March demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his government over the unprecedented crisis blamed on corruption and mismanagement.
Rallies continued on Tuesday with a new protest outside the official residence of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to demand his resignation.
Rajapaksa, whose brother is the current president, said during a meeting with local officials on Tuesday “I will not leave, don’t worry”.
“I will not leave by myself unless I am removed,” he added. EFE