Conflicts & War

Record fuel price surge forces Sri Lankans to stay home

Colombo, May 22 (EFE).- The unprecedented rise in fuel prices in Sri Lanka, with an astonishing 25 percent jump registered on Tuesday, along with an acute shortage linked to the ongoing economic crisis, is preventing its citizens from traveling even for medical purposes.

Authorities on Tuesday hiked petrol prices from 338 to 420 Sri Lankan rupees ($0.93 to $1.16) per liter, while diesel surged almost 40 percent to 400 rupees.

“Price revision includes all costs incurred in importing, unloading, distribution to the stations and taxes,” Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara said in a press conference, adding that the government would promote work from home to reduce the use of fuel.

A limit on the amount of fuel each vehicle can fill up has also been imposed starting Tuesday.

The association of drivers of three-wheeler taxis, known as “rikshaws,” raised their passenger fares after the petrol price hike, while the president of the Private Bus Owners Association, Gemunu Wijeratne, said that ticket prices were set to jump by at least 25 percent.

The rising prices and shortage of fuel – linked to the lack of foreign currency for imports – has led to Sri Lankans lining up for hours at petrol stations, while many have been forced to give up travel altogether.

“How are we going to do our work anymore?” Piyara W. a 34-year-old businessman from the southern Ratnapura district, told EFE.

“What we earn is not enough to cover traveling expenses. We don’t go anywhere anymore because it is much better to stay home,” he added.

Malkanthi Kumari, who lives in the southwestern Monaragala district, told EFE that she had stopped travelling to Colombo to see her doctor.

“I can’t make that once-a-month trip to Colombo anymore. I got three months’ worth of medicine in one trip. That is the only solution I havenow,” she said.

Sri Lanka has been witnessing a fuel shortage for months and last week its newly appointed prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, urged the public to limit travel and not go to work due to the petrol stocks getting completely exhausted for two days.

On Monday the country received 40,000 metric tons of petrol from neighboring India, which has also extended a fresh $500 credit line through its Export Import Bank of India.

The energy crisis, which has led to power cuts lasting up to 13 hours every day, has triggered widespread protests, with security forces being deployed at gas stations.

This year the island has been hit by its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, reflected in a months-long shortage of medicines, food and fuel, and aggravated by dwindling foreign currency reserves.

Inflation hit the record 30 percent mark in April as per latest data provided by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan authorities have been trying to negotiate a possible bailout by the International Monetary Fund, after temporarily suspending the payment of their foreign debt in April. EFE


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