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Sri Lanka PM Wickremesinghe hints at opting for fuel rationing amid economic crisis
Colombo, Jun 7 (PTI) The next three weeks are going to be "tough" for Sri Lanka over fuel supplies, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned on Tuesday, indicating that the cash-strapped country, which needs some USD 3,300 million for fuel imports in the next six months, may opt for its rationing.

Addressing Parliament, Wickremesinghe said that India, China and Japan are leading the list of countries that provided Sri Lanka with loans and assistance during the worst financial crisis faced by the island nation.

Relations with these countries, which have always been strong, are now broken. Those relationships need to be rebuilt," he said.

"The country spends USD 500 million per month on fuel. It should be kept in mind that the current global crisis risks raising oil prices. Some estimate that global oil prices will rise by as much as 40 per cent by the end of this year. "

"In this context, the idea of introducing a coupon system for fuel cannot be ruled out. Somehow we have to find USD 3,300 million for fuel for the next six months," he said.

The next three weeks will be a tough time for us related to fuel. It is time we all must use fuel and gas as carefully as possible. Unessential travel should be limited as much as possible. After these difficult three weeks, we are trying to ensure the shortage of fuel and gas will have ended. Let's face these difficult three weeks united and patiently, the prime minister said.

Wickremesinghe said although the primary focus was on achieving economic stability, the effort must be to revive the economy.

This is not something that can be done in two or three days. This challenge cannot be faced by miracles, slogans, magic or emotions. Implementing intelligently thought-out projects requires hard work and dedication," he said.

On cooking gas queues, Wickremesinghe said it costs USD 40 million a month to import gas.

We are currently using multilateral assistance, local currency and Indian loans to import gas. We will require USD 250 million over the next six months for gas," he said.

Wickremesinghe said the country's annual rice requirement is 2.5 million metric tonnes.

But we have only 1.6 million metric tonnes of rice in stock, we need USD 5 billion to ensure our daily lives are not disrupted for the next six months," he said.

"We need to strengthen the rupee in line with the daily requirements of the citizens. Another USD 1 billion is needed to strengthen the rupee. That means we need to find USD 6 billion to keep the country afloat for the next six months," he said.

Wickremesinghe said the United Nations has arranged for a worldwide public appeal on June 9 to provide humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka.

They are seeking support to provide humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka. Through this project, they plan to provide USD 48 million over a four-month period to the food, agriculture and health sectors," he said.

Sri Lanka has been grappling with unprecedented economic turmoil since its independence from Britain in 1948. The economic crisis has also created political unrest in the country.

Sri Lanka in mid-April declared that it was unable to meet its foreign debt payments and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) classified Sri Lanka's debt as unsustainable. Therefore debt restructuring was key for an IMF programme.

Wickremesinghe was appointed prime minister last month after days of violent protests forced his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa, the brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to step down.

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