Colombo, Jun 28 (EFE).- Sri Lanka on Monday decided to restrict the distribution of fuel to essential services, in an attempt to make its last oil reserves last for a little longer as the island struggles with an unprecedented crisis.
Only essential services such as health, port services, food supplies, airports, and tourism will be able to purchase fuel, cabinet spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena told reporters on Monday.
The government has urged citizens to support it in enforcing the decision – effective midnight on Monday and for now set to last until Jul. 10 – which will effectively put a stop to a large number of economic activities.
“This is not a lockdown. This is work from home till the 10th. What we want is (for the people) to stay in their districts,” tourism minister Harin Fernando said.
Fernando said that the government expected its recent discussions with the International Monetary Fund and the United States to bear fruit within five weeks and allow Colombo to purchase food, fuel, medicine and other essentials.
He expressed hope that day-to-day work would be normalized again by Jul. 10.
Sri Lanka was severely harmed by the government’s economic mismanagement and policy mistakes, as well as the crippling Covid-19 lockdown and the 2019 Easter bombings, which hurt the country’s once-thriving tourism industry and remittances from abroad.
With foreign currency reserves at all time low and the government defaulting on paying foreign doubt, Colombo has approached the IMF seeking a credit line to restore financial stability, while it is also trying to sign agreements with lenders to restructure the loans.
Gas stations have been one of the points of greatest tension on the island nation for months, where dozens of people are forced to wait in queues for hours to try and refuel their vehicles or get gas cylinders for cooking.
Last week the government announced a two-week closure of schools and institutes to reduce fuel consumption, although schools in rural areas are allowed to open if the students and teachers do not face trouble finding transport.
Several representatives of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government have also begun talks with Russia in an attempt to secure fuel to ease the crippling shortage being faced by Sri Lanka. EFE