Sri Lanka raises fuel prices due to economic collapse

by Barbara R. Abercrombie
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The move comes a day after the energy minister said there would be an indefinite delay in getting new oil shipments.

Sri Lanka has raised its fuel prices, adding further pain to the people as United States officials arrived for talks to support the island during its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) said Sunday it had raised the price of diesel, commonly used in public transportation, by 15 percent to 460 rupees ($1.27) per liter while raising the price of gasoline by 22 percent to 550 rupees ($1.52) per liter (about four liters to a gallon).

The announcement came a day after Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said there would be an indefinite delay in getting new oil shipments.

Wijesekera said the oil that was supposed to arrive last week had not surfaced, while the shipments that would come next week would also not reach Sri Lanka due to “banking” reasons.

Wijesekera apologized to motorists and urged them not to stand in the long lines before gas stations. Many have left their vehicles in line in hopes of being able to refuel when supplies are restored.

Official sources said the island’s remaining fuel supply was sufficient for about two days, but authorities held it for essential services.

A US Treasury and State Departments delegation arrived for talks to “explore the most effective ways for the US to support Sri Lankans in need,” the US embassy in Colombo said.

economic collapse

“As Sri Lankans endure some of the greatest economic challenges in their history, our efforts to support economic growth and strengthen democratic institutions have never been more critical,” US Ambassador Julie Chung said.

In the past two weeks, the embassy pledged $158.75 million in new funding to help Sri Lankans.

‘Complete collapse of the economy

The UN has already issued an emergency appeal to raise $47 million to feed the most vulnerable parts of the island’s 22 million residents.

According to the UN, about 1.7 million Sri Lankans need “life-saving aid”, with four in five people cutting their food intake due to severe shortages and galloping prices.

Last week, due to the energy crisis, the government closed non-essential state institutions and schools for two weeks to reduce commuter traffic.

Several hospitals nationwide reported a sharp drop in medical staff attendance due to the fuel shortage.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned parliament on Wednesday that more hardships are ahead.

“Our economy has completely collapsed,” Wickremesinghe said. “We are now facing a much more serious situation than just the fuel, gas, electricity, and food shortages.”

The government failed to repay its $51 billion foreign debt and declared a default in April. She is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund about a possible bailout.

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