Colombo, Jan 4 (EFE).- Hundreds of people on Wednesday came out on the streets of Colombo to express their anger against the deteriorating quality of life, higher taxes and a possible hike in electricity tariffs which could worsen the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka this year.
“We are here to remind the public that this government will not give us any relief. Our living standards are deteriorating. This is the first protest of many more to come this year,” one of the organizers Dhammika Munasinghe – secretary of the workers’ union Joint Development Officer’s Center – told EFE.
Sri Lanka has been mired in one of its worst economic crises for over a year due to the lack of foreign currency and high foreign debt, which triggered massive protests that forced the ouster of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July 2022.
However, the discontent has failed to subside subsequently as part of the population feels that Gotabaya’s successor Ranil Wickremesinghe has also been unable to handle the economic debacle.
According to the latest report by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, inflation stood at 57.2 percent in December, slightly lower than the November figure of 61 percent.
Although the data seems to indicate a slow recovery in terms of inflation, millions of citizen are struggling every day to put three square meals on the table.
A recent UNICEF report estimated that around 6.2 million people or 28 percent of the island’s population, is facing moderately acute food insecurity due to the economic crisis.
“Last year the people’s struggle was led by the country’s middle class because they were affected by the fuel shortage and power cuts. But this year the crisis is much worse. People are finding it hard to feed their children. This year the working class will come to the streets,” Munasinghe said.
In this backdrop, the Election Commission said on Wednesday that it would begin accepting nominations this month for the upcoming local body elections.
Amid concerns over the expenditure required for these polls, agriculture minister Mahinda Amaraweera urged authorities to delay the elections and use the money to buy paddy seeds from the farmers.
“According to the Election Commission, it costs about 10 billion rupees ($27 million) for the government to hold these elections. Right now we could use that money to buy paddy from farmers and sell rice to consumers at a fair price,” he said. EFE