Business & Economy

Sri Lankans protest over pension fears as IMF-sought reforms kick in

Colombo, Jul 31 (EFE).- More than a thousand people on Monday came out on the streets of the Sri Lankan capital in defense of pensions amid fears that the reforms sought by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – after the body offered a $3 billion bailout package to tackle its severe economic crisis – could hit workers hard.

Using slogans such as “protect funds belonging to working masses”, and “stop grabbing the future of the working masses,” the protesters gathered on a call by the left-wing opposition NPP and voiced their mistrust of Sri Lanka’s IMF-backed internal debt restructuring process.

The employees’ provident fund (EPF) and employees’ trust fund (ETF), two security nets that Sri Lankan employees depend on for survival after retirement, are “crucial forms of support to millions that have very little else,” NPP spokesperson Vraie Balthazaar told EFE.

The demonstrators accused the Sri Lankan government of triggering the worst economic crisis of the country’s modern history and making the people pay for it.

However, President Ranil Wickremesinghe had assured last month at a public event that the Domestic Debt Organization process (DDO) would not affect the EPF and ETF.

“Restructuring of domestic debt will not pose any threat to the stability of the country’s banking system,” the president’s media wing said in a statement, adding that “the deposits will remain unaffected, and there will be no changes to the current interest rates.”

Sri Lanka has been mired in the worst financial crisis since independence from the British in 1948, and defaulted on its foreign debt payments last year after inflation surged to double digits and the populace had to face a severe shortage of food, fuel and other essential products such as medicines.

Colombo finally managed to secure a $3 billion bailout from IMF in March 2023 after months of negotiations. EFE


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