In the midst of a disastrous economic crisis, the new government in Sri Lanka has been sketching out the measures to tackle the crisis and in what has become the first major announcement within days of taking office, new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that his government will sell the Sri Lankan Airlines, the country's flagship carrier.
In a televised address to the nation on Monday - May 16, Wickremesinghe has said that his administration plans to privatize Sri Lankan Airlines. It has been reported that the carrier has lost 45 billion rupees ($124 million) in the year ending March 2021. "It should not be that this loss has to be borne by the poorest of the poor who have not set foot in an aircraft", the Prime Minister added.
It's been less than a week since he became the Prime Minister, after the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and he has been gaining attention through his announcements. Wickremesinghe has further said that he was forced to print money to pay salaries, which will pressure the nation's currency. The country has been running out of gasoline and the government has been taking efforts to obtain dollars in the open market to pay for three ships with crude oil and furnace oil that have been anchored in Sri Lankan waters.
The Prime Minister said, "The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives. We must immediately establish a national assembly or political body with the participation of all political parties to find solutions for the present crisis." In a part of the government's efforts to stem the losses, it will be marking the first time that the Sri Lankan Airlines will go private, had the government succeed in the deal.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has appointed Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister last week, days after the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, which was triggered by the violence that erupted between the protesters and his supporters. The new Prime Minister has said that his government would introduce a relief budget which would replace President Gotabaya's development budget that helped stoke Asia's fastest inflation rate.
He added that the cabinet would propose the Parliament raise the treasury bill issuance limit to 4 trillion rupees from 3 trillion rupees. He also forecasted a budget deficit of 13% of gross domestic product for the year ending December 2022. Wickremesinghe's announcements have come at a high time when Sri Lanka is inching closer to default as the grace period on two unpaid overseas loans ends on Wednesday- May 18.