No fuel shortage, claims Sri Lankan minister after colleague asks public to use fuel sparingly

Amid reports that economic crisis hit Sri Lanka was planning to borrow from US and Europe-based funds to repay loans of a state-run petroleum utility, a senior minister on Tuesday ruled out a fuel shortage

Sep 14, 2021
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No fuel shortage, claims Sri Lankan

Amid reports that economic crisis hit Sri Lanka was planning to borrow from US and Europe-based funds to repay loans of a state-run petroleum utility, a senior minister on Tuesday ruled out a fuel shortage.

The country’s plantation minister Ramesh Pathirana came out with the statement to scotch speculation after one of his cabinet colleagues asked the people to practice thrift with oil given a foreign currency crisis.
   
Pathirana, a cabinet spokesman, said the public should not fear any shortage.

“We can tell you that there is no scarcity of oil in this country,” Pathirana told reporters. “Do not get unnecessary fears.”

There have been reports that Colombo was seeking 2.5 billion US dollars from some unsolicited proposal made by the US and Europe-based lending funds to repay loans of state-run petroleum major Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

But the cabinet spokesman said the country has “adequate stocks” and would finance oil purchases in the future.

“The government is ready to finance oil imports in the future,” he said.

Sporadic speculation over fuel availability began following Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s appeal to people to use fuel sparingly amid foreign exchange shortages.

Last month a trade union leader linked to the opposition was taken to custody by police for questioning over a statement that there is oil stock only for three weeks.

In July there were media reports that an oil tanker was kept waiting to discharge its cargo over a payment delay.

Meanwhile, Minister Pathirana said the discussions between Minister Udaya Gammanpila and oil supplying countries are to discuss the price and long-term credit lines, ECONOMYNEXT  reported.

“There is no final decision on this,” he said. “But I want to clearly say there is no oil scarcity.”

Sri Lanka raised oil prices earlier this year backtracking on an election promise to ‘fix’ oil prices through an energy price stabilization fund.

Government statements have said the banking system was threatened by over 652 billion rupees (about $3 billion US dollars) loaned rupees to the CPC, and prices had to be raised to stop further borrowings.

The public had questioned why the CPC is in debt when customers paid hard cash for oil.

Analysts had shown that whenever Sri Lanka’s central bank printed money to meet foreign exchange shortages the CPC had been made to borrow dollars to avoid buying dollars in the market with the rupees, running up massive debts.

In 2018 the CPC ran an 80 billion rupee loss on its forex liabilities. Oil bills generally get the attention of policymakers (whenever money is printed) because they are large.

(SAM)