Sri Lanka’s president says he urged his Russian counterpart to help his cash-strapped island nation import fuel as it faces its worst economic crisis in decades.
Short of foreign exchange due to years of economic mismanagement and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, Sri Lanka has been struggling to import essentials, leading to severe shortages of medicine, food and fuel.
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“Had a very productive telecon with the #Russia President, Vladimir Putin,” President Gotabaya Rajapaksa wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.
“While thanking him for all the support extended by his govt to overcome the challenges of the past, I requested an offer of credit support to import fuel to #lka in defeating the current econ challenges,” he added.
Had a very productive telecon with the #Russia President, Vladimir Putin. While thanking him for all the support extended by his gvt to overcome the challenges of the past, I requested an offer of credit support to import fuel to #lka in defeating the current econ challenges.
— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) July 6, 2022
Western nations largely have cut off energy imports from Russia in line with sanctions over its war on Ukraine. Since the invasion in late February, global oil prices have skyrocketed, prompting a number of countries to seek out Russian crude, which is being offered at steep discounts.
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has led to a dire fuel shortage, forcing the government to shut schools and ask employees other than those in essential services to work from home to cut down on consuming the limited stocks.
The government said earlier that no entity is willing to supply oil to Sri Lanka even for cash because its petroleum corporation owes a large debt.
Sri Lanka has already bought oil from Russia to tide it over during the crisis, and the government has indicated it is willing to make further purchases.
“We unanimously agreed that strengthening bilateral relations in sectors such as tourism, trade & culture was paramount in reinforcing the friendship our two nations share,” Rajapaksa said.
Sri Lanka will also hold road shows in five Indian cities to attract more visitors from its populous northern neighbour and to bring in more foreign currency, its tourism minister said.
Known for its rolling hills, pristine beaches and laid-back seaside towns, Sri Lanka has seen a steady trickle of 61,951 Indian tourists – the most from any foreign country – in the first five months of this year.
“Sri Lanka must have tourism revenue if it is to emerge from this crisis. That is essential,” Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told reporters.
Fernando said he hoped the country would end the year with about one million tourists, compared to less than 200,000 arrivals last year, even though some countries, including the United Kingdom, have issued advisories asking citizens to undertake only essential travel to Sri Lanka.
“We are confident the winter season will be good,” Fernando said.