(Bloomberg) -- Sri Lankan citizens were put on a virtual lockdown amid a crippling sovereign debt crisis that’s left the South Asian nation with no fresh fuel supplies.
The island nation’s cabinet of ministers Monday decided to limit distribution of fuel to essential services until July 10, spokesman Bandula Gunawardena said in a televised statement, adding that inter provincial public transport would likely come to a halt.
“Port, health services, food transport will be provided petrol and diesel while all other sectors are requested to stay at home and provide services online in this difficult time,” Gunawardena said. “Our country is facing an unprecedented state of finance and foreign exchange crisis.”
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned last week of a complete collapse and said that the island nation is unable to purchase fuel, even for cash, as shortages of essentials and electricity worsen. Local authorities are in talks with the International Monetary Fund as well as bilateral creditors such as India and China for fresh funds to pay for imports after it defaulted on its dollar bonds earlier this year and saw foreign reserves dwindle.
Sri Lanka plans to allow foreign companies to distribute fuel in a bid to ease crippling shortages that have paralyzed most economic activity, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said Sunday.
The government had already closed public schools and asked civil servants to work from home to curtail transport, leaving many roads in and around the capital, Colombo, deserted over the past days, even as thousands of vehicles lined up in queues stretching for kilometers waiting for filling stations to be replenished.
The government is sending its envoys to Qatar and Russia this week to secure fresh supplies and is hoping for the approval from India of a $500 million credit line for fuel imports.
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