Sri Lanka holds breath as the new Prime Minister makes efforts to save the economy
The PM has inherited a nation barreling toward bankruptcy and saddled with foreign debt so big that it has no money left for basic imports.
The five-time prime minister has inherited a nation moving towards bankruptcy and saddled with foreign debt so big that it has no money left for basic imports. Sri Lankans are struggling to have access to the bare necessities like food, fuel, medicine, cooking gas and even toilet paper and matches.
In his new job, Wickremesinghe left little doubt regarding what lies ahead. “The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” he said.
“We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period.”
“A person who doesn’t have a political base has an unprecedented crisis to manage,” said Dayan Jayatilleka, a former diplomat and political analyst.
Queues to buy fuel and cooking gas have stretched kilometers every day, snaking around blocks, with Sri Lankans weathering heavy rains and scorching heat to buy essential items that cost three times what they used to. Oftentimes, they have to wait days, and many still end up empty-handed.
In such a difficult situation, Wickremsinghe has been able to bring some transparency and rationality that was lacking in the previous administration run by the Rajapaksa clan, said Jayatilleka.
But analysts also have to say that it will not be easy for him to deliver on some of the challenges, especially as he also faces a messy battle to overhaul the constitution and strengthen the powers of Parliament to bring in much needed reforms.
“His proposals are good for medium and long term. But people want iimmediate changes to take place and that they don’t see,” said political analyst, Jehan Perera, adding that some see Wickremesinghe as helping Rajapaksa to stay in power.