For the first time since the country has gone into the worst crisis that culminated in the nationwide agitation, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has publicly admitted that his mistakes had driven the country to face an unprecedented economic downfall. His admission has come after the island nation has been suffering from soaring inflation and from the heated political crisis where the people are urging the transition of power from the Rajapaksa clan.
According to reports, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has made the admission on Monday - April 18 while speaking to 17 new Cabinet ministers that he had appointed following the mass resignation of previous ministers and he further pledged to correct the mistakes. He said, "During the last two and a half years, we have had vast challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the debt burden, and some mistakes on our part. They need to be rectified. We have to correct them and move forward. We need to regain the trust of the people."
While his regime is finding ways to have immediate relief from the crisis, the reports say that his comments have come in his bid to resolve the political crisis against his family and his reign. The transition of power within the family was the only major overhaul of the leadership that the country has witnessed in several years. The Rajapaksa clan has been powerful and the family was running nearly 80% of the nation's economy directly from its hands and its mishandling has pushed Sri Lanka's economy to a disastrous downfall.
During Monday's meeting, Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said that the government should have approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) early on for help in facing the growing debt crisis and should not have banned chemical fertilizers in an attempt to make Sri Lankan agriculture fully organic. "Today, people are under immense pressure due to this economic crisis. I deeply regret this situation", he added and said that the pain, discomfort, and anger displayed by people forced to wait in long lines to get essential items at high prices are justified.
His regime has been slammed for banning the imported fertilizer that had badly hurt the farmers and his government is also blamed for taking out large loans for infrastructure projects which have not brought in any investments. One of the major problems that triggered the crisis is the declining foreign exchange. The country has been on the edge of bankruptcy with nearly USD 7 billion of its total USD 25 billion in foreign debt due for repayment this year. The country was left with a limited foreign exchange for imports and the people have been facing a dearth of essentials like food, cooking gas, fuel, and medicine.
Amid such crises, the new cabinet appointments were made in Sri Lanka and even the country is witnessing large-scale protests with people storming before the Presidential palace and several government officers to agitate against the crisis and demand the resignation of the ruling regime. However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his elder brother and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had said that they won't be quitting their offices while some of his family members including Mahinda's son had resigned from the cabinet.
Most of the cabinet had resigned on April 3 after protests across the country and the new cabinet appointments had excluded politicians who were facing corruption charges with the view of mitigating the political crisis. Amid the country's move of seeking funds from Beijing and New Delhi to meet the shortages of food and fuel, Sri Lanka's Finance Minister Ali Sabry and officials have been in talks with the IMF and they had left to attend the annual meetings of IMF and World Bank, which will be held in Washington this week.