Sri Lanka is going through hours of daily power cuts, unable to keep its oil-powered turbines going because of a fuel shortage and a lack of foreign currency to pay for oil imports.
The crisis has forced children to study using homemade kerosene oil lamps, fishermen to limit fishing and shops and industries to limit production and business.
Government ministers have admitted that they struggle to pay the ships that dock in Colombo port and wait to unload their fuel stocks.
Sri Lanka also has coal-fired power plants as well as hydroelectric ones, but dry weather has limited hydropower production.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week sacked Udaya Gammanpila as energy minister after he publicly discussed the enormity of the crisis and criticised authorities for not prioritising imports.
Vehicles and people holding containers stand in sometimes queues that sometimes stretch for kilometres at gas stations. Passenger buses and trucks transporting goods are unable to operate normally. The limited number of foreign tourists visiting the country are confined to their hotels, unable to travel. Some spend time in the dark.
Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves have dwindled because its tourism sector was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and exports are down. Additionally, the country has to pay billions of dollars in foreign debts for infrastructure projects that are not making money.
This year’s loan repayment obligations alone cost nearly $7bn.