Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday said the country's economy is in an "extremely precarious condition" and that his government is faced with "several grave concerns". He said that the country is left with only one day of petrol stocks and added that the daily power outages may increase to 15 hours a day. In an address to the nation, the PM further said that the next couple of months will be the most difficult ones in their lives and that they must prepare themselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period.
Wickremesinghe said although the former government’s budget projected revenue of SLR 2.3 trillion, the realistic projection of this year’s revenue is SLR 1.6 trillion. He said the estimated govt expenditure for this year is SLR 3.3 trillion. However, due to an increase in interest rates and an additional expenditure of the previous govt, the total govt expenditure is SLR 4 trillion. The budget deficit for the year is SLR 2.4 trillion. This amount equals 13% of the GDP, he added. The approved debt ceiling is SLR 3200 bn. By the 2nd week of May, we had spent 1950 bn. Therefore, remainder is SLR 1250 bn, he further said.
Wickremesinghe said the Cabinet took a decision yesterday to present a proposal to the Parliament to increase approved limit for issuing treasury bills from 3000 bn to 4000 bn.
The PM said he country's foreign exchange reserves in November 2019 were at USD 7.5 billion. However, today it is a challenge for the treasury to find USD 1 million. "The Ministry of finance is finding it difficult to raise USD 5 million required to import gaswere at USD 7.5 billion," he said.
"We're faced with several grave concerns. To ease queues, we must obtain approximately USD 75 mn within next couple of days. At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day. Due to diesel shipment that arrived y'day, lack of diesel will be resolved to some extent," he added.
"A quarter of electricity is generated through oil. Therefore, there's a possibility that daily power outages will increase to 15 hrs a day. However, we've already obtained money to avert this crisis. We must also immediately obtain USD 20 mn to provide gas to consumers," he further said.
Wickremesinghe said his govt has planned to present a new alternative budget to the development budget proposed for 2022.
During his speech, the PM also proposed to privatise Sri Lankan Airlines which is "incurring extensive losses". "The loss for 2020-2021 alone amounts to SLR 45 billion. By 31st March 2021, total loss was at 372 billion. Even if we privatise Sri Lankan Airlines, this is a loss that we must bear," he added.
In an apparent reference to the Rajapaksa family, he further said that his aim is to save the crisis-hit country, and not a person, family or group.