Sri Lanka to work with IMF, says President Gotabaya Rajapaksa; asks people to have faith in his actions amid economic hardship
Sri Lanka will seek support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced in a rare speech on Wednesday, where he acknowledged, for the first time, “sufferings” and “difficulties” faced by people as the island country faces one of its worst economic crises
Sri Lanka will seek support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced in a rare speech on Wednesday, where he acknowledged, for the first time, “sufferings” and “difficulties” faced by people as the island country faces one of its worst economic crises.
As anger among the public reaches a new high this week due to the crippling shortage of essentials, food, fuel, and skyrocketing inflation, President Rajapaksa made a rare plea in his empathetic, and long speech on Wednesday, requesting people to have “faith in the actions” that he will take on the behalf of the people.
“I accept responsibility for the actions I take,” he said, adding, “Today, I make tough decisions to find solutions to the inconvenience that the people are experiencing.” He later announced that based on discussions with all relevant stakeholders the government has decided to work with the IMF after examining all “advantages and disadvantages.”
For Rajapaksa, the decision was a humiliating one. Since, coming to power in 2019, demonizing foreign aid and the West-dominated institution like the IMF had been a key part of Rajapaksas’ politics in the country, primarily to cater to his domestic nationalist support base Hos seeking support from the IMF has come as a key reversal.
In 2019, Rajapaksa rejected a $500 million grant—not a loan— offered by the US government under the Millenium Challenge Corporation. In the last three years, despite the worsening economic situation, Rajapaksa made no significant effort to improve ties with the West and instead reversed whatever little progress had been by his predecessors.
Today, the same government struggles, almost on a daily basis, to get tankers full of fuel and other essentials released from Colombo Port as it doesn’t have enough dollars.
“This crisis was not created by me,” Rajapaksa claimed in his speech on Wednesday. “Entire world is engulfed in various hardships,” he said, referring to the factors beyond his “control” like the Covid-19 pandemic, rising shipping costs, global high commodities prices, and shortage of certain goods.
What Rajapaksa said is a reality. That, however, doesn’t absolve him of some of his own actions that accelerated the crisis. One of those actions was the abrupt ban on the usage and import of chemical fertilizer last year that crippled the crucial agricultural sector and compromised the country’s food security at a time when Sri Lanka could afford it little.
On Wednesday, Rajapaksa said the crisis will continue for reasons beyond his control. However, he made references to historical challenges in the past like foreign invasion, civil war, and terrorism, when people had to endure difficulties to overcome that.
He appealed to citizens to reduce the consumption of fuel and electricity, saying “I hope you will understand the responsibilities lies with you in these difficult times.”