New Sri Lanka PM gives grim stock taking of country’s crisis: ‘We only have petrol for a single day’

‘I am wearing shoes with sharp nails that cannot be removed’

Maroosha Muzaffar
Tuesday 17 May 2022 12:26 BST
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Sri Lanka’s newly appointed prime minister declared he was “wearing shoes with sharp nails that cannot be removed” and gave a grim outlook for his country by saying that it had petrol stocks left for just a single day.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed prime minister on 12 May after his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned days earlier.

Widespread protests have sparked across the island nation as it grapples with a devastating economic crisis that has resulted in a drastic shortage of basic essentials.

Mr Wickremesinghe, in his first address to the country on Monday, said the next two months are going to be the toughest to date as he aimed to steer the economy back on track.

“I am undertaking a dangerous challenge… I am wearing shoes with sharp nails that cannot be removed… I am accepting this challenge for our nation,” he said in the televised address.

“My goal and dedication is not to save an individual, a family, or a party. My objective is to save all the people of this country and the future of our younger generation,” he added.

“At the moment, we only have petrol stocks for a single day,” he said, adding that diesel shortages would be eased due to a credit line extended by neighbour India.

He said the lack of diesel would “be resolved to some extent” as two other diesel shipments were due to reach the country on 18 May and 1 June under the Indian credit line, while two petrol shipments were expected on 18 and 29 May.

He stated that the government was working “to obtain dollars in the open market” to pay for crude and furnace oil in three ships that have been anchored within Sri Lankan waters for the past 40 days.

“The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives. We must prepare ourselves to make some sacrifices and face the challenges of this period,” the prime minister said.

He warned Sri Lankans of the possibility of daily power outages being increased to 15 hours a day. “However, we have already obtained money to avert this crisis,” he assured.

Mr Wickremesinghe also said there was a severe shortage of medicines, including ones needed for heart disease and surgical equipment.

Payments have not been made for four months to suppliers of medicine, medical equipment and food for patients, the Sri Lankan leader said.

He warned of the possibility of inflation increasing further.

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