The situation in Sri Lanka has been unstable, to say the least, for some time now. It appears that this is not going to get better anytime soon with the Prime Minister stating that the nation is now “bankrupt.”
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has only been in office just over a month. This following continuous protests about the country’s financial situation, primarily the fact that people can barely afford anything anymore.
This led the police to crackdown on protesters which, as always, simply served to inflame tensions and led to rioting and even cases of arson on the homes of government leaders. It also led to the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former Prime Minister and brother of the current President.
This financial catastrophe is, to some degree, caused by reliance on authoritarians, and it is leading Sri Lanka back to the source of its ills.
Of course, as with many nations currently, one of the biggest sources of trouble for Sri Lanka is the world’s unwillingness to deal with the COVID pandemic. This has led to massive revenue losses in Sri Lanka as tourism dried up.
Another issue the country faces is reliance on China. Many developing countries have relied on China for loans, and many have found that trouble soon follows.
Sri Lanka owes China more than $11 billion and on top of recently asking to delay repayment, they have also asked for additional loans of $2.5 billion. Of this, China has agreed to loan $31 million is “humanitarian aid.”
As with most Belt and Road projects, this puts Sri Lanka in an unenviable position where they spiral into more and more debt and are essentially forced to acquiesce to the will of the CCP. However, China is not the only authoritarian state that the South Asian nation has turned to.
In recent days, the president of Sri Lanka has pleaded with Russian strongman, and current invader of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin for assistance importing fuel.
Sri Lanka is facing a massive inability to keep fuel, food, and medicine in stock. Gas and diesel reserves have reportedly nearly been completely exhausted and the government seems, understandably so, in a panic to resupply.
It appears that the government’s only plan to get the country back above water is to increase tourism, however this seems like a long shot.
With COVID still mutating and killing millions around the world and with rioting and street violence ongoing in Sri Lanka, it is unlikely that tourists will once again flock to the country en masse.
With inflation hitting nearly 55 percent year-on-year and food inflation over 80, it seems that the country might be in for a long and turbulent time for quite a period.
Hopefully, for the people of Sri Lanka, they can get a government that is more effective and less friendly to despots. Also that the democratic international community can come together to help nations like this move on a path towards more democracy and higher standards of living instead of into the pockets of authoritarians.