Business & Economy

Sri Lanka celebrates 75 years of independence amid debt, funds crisis

Colombo, Feb 4 (EFE).- The Sri Lankan government on Saturday marked the 75th anniversary of its independence, amid anger and criticism over the cost of the celebrations in a severely indebted nation with no resources even for basic expenditure.

The celebrations began on Saturday in the picturesque Galle Face Green seafront, one of the most posh areas of Colombo where several government offices are situated and which was the scene of a massive citizens’ protest last year that forced the resignation of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa over his mishandling of the crisis.

“Our 75th anniversary of independence from colonial rule is being observed during an extremely critical and challenging time in the country. It is, indeed, a decisive moment,” President Ranil Wickremesinghe said in his independence day speech.

“However, it presents an opportunity for us not only to review our strengths and gains as a nation but also to rectify our errors and failures,” he added.

Wickremesinghe, who was appointed president by the parliament after Rajapaksa’s resignation thanks to overnight alliances being formed between opposing political blocs, has enforced several cuts in public spending to keep the country afloat, apart from imposing curbs on protests.

The president reiterated on Saturday that his new agenda of economic and social reforms is focused on “recovery and renewed development’” and urged Sri Lankans to have “courage and determination” to achieve economic prosperity.

Protests, which have become part of the country’s political backdrop, continued at a smaller scale on Saturday. even as a court issued an order banning any protest march or entry of laypersons into Galle Face and its surroundings during the independence day celebrations.

For over a year, Sri Lanka has been mired in its worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to the lack of foreign currency and high foreign debt.

The government has sought a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, which remains stuck pending policy adjustments by the government.

As per a report of the World Food Programme, around 36 percent of Sri Lankan families are witnessing food insecurity, with even families with average income facing problems in purchasing sufficient food or procuring more than one meal a day.

“I don’t understand the rationale in celebrating this day when people can’t afford three decent meals a day. This is all a waste,” Janaka Sampath, a worker in the capital, told EFE on Saturday with regard to the ongoing celebrations.

The government admitted earlier this week that so far the revenue generation this year had been far below the expenditure in the country, and urged the cabinet to enforce more spending cuts, avoid credits and prioritize salaries. EFE


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