Sri Lanka will need $5 bn in 6 months for essentials: Wickremesinghe

"Only establishing economic stability not enough, we have to restructure the entire economy," said Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is working to prepare an interim budget to balance Sri Lanka's battered public finances.
Sri Lanka will need $5 bn in 6 months for essentials: Wickremesinghe
Prime Minister Ranil WickremesingheReuters

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's cash-strapped government will need at least $5 billion in the next six months to maintain basic standards of living, including some $3.3 billion for fuel imports, the country's prime minister told parliament on Tuesday.

"Only establishing economic stability not enough, we have to restructure the entire economy," said Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is working to prepare an interim budget to balance Sri Lanka's battered public finances.

The island nation of 22 million is suffering its worst economic crisis in seven decades, with a shortage of foreign exchange stalling essential imports.

Cabinet defers 21st Amendment to the Constitution by a week:

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's Cabinet has deferred by a week the approval of the proposed 21st Amendment to the Constitution to empower Parliament over the executive president, amidst stiff resistance from some members of the ruling party.

The 21st Amendment is expected to annul the 20A to the Constitution which gives unfettered powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after abolishing the 19th Amendment. The draft of the proposed amendment was presented at Monday's Cabinet meeting. It was decided to approve it only after all parties agreed with the amendments proposed. It will be presented to the Cabinet next week," Charitha Herath, a government parliamentarian, told reporters.

A section of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party (SLPP) is averse to bringing in 21A without addressing the current economic crisis.

People are facing difficulties without essentials. We will have to think of settling the economic issues first before trying political solutions," Sagara Kariyawasam, the ruling SLPP general secretary said.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Wijedasa Rajapakshe was hopeful of having the Cabinet nod on Monday.

The government announced on Friday that most of the concerns raised by parties had been addressed and agreed upon.

However, the main Opposition party, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), expressed disagreement, saying the government needed to wait until the Supreme Court's determination on their draft document on the amendment.

The SJB has accused the government of watering down the amendment so as to allow president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to continue enjoying full powers.

The SJB presses for the abolition of the presidential system.

The constitutional affairs minister said the government's aim was to move provisions which may require it to be subject to a national referendum.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week batted for the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, saying it will curb the president's unlimited powers while enhancing the role of Parliament in governing the debt-ridden country which is also facing an unprecedented political turmoil.

His proposal to introduce the 21st Amendment met with stiff resistance from some members of the ruling SLPP party.

They charged that Wickremesinghe was looking to garner more power for himself while weakening President Rajapaksa who appointed him.

The powerful Rajapaksa family tightened their grip on power after their massive victory in the general elections in August 2020, which allowed them to amend the Constitution to restore presidential powers and install close family members in key positions.

(With inputs from PTI)

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