Doctors, bankers protest ‘impossible situation’ as Sri Lanka runs out of fuel

COLOMBO: Doctors and bankers were among hundreds of Sri Lankans who marched on Wednesday to demand that the government address the severe fuel shortages at the heart of the worst economic crisis. of the Indian Ocean island for decades or resign.
Street marches against woes such as power cuts and shortages of food and medicine brought change in government last month after nine people were killed and around 300 injured in protests protest.
With about a week’s worth of fuel left and shipments at least two weeks away, the government limited supplies on Tuesday to essential services, such as trains, buses and medical field, for two weeks.
The prime minister’s office said in a statement that a government-ordered shipment of gasoline would arrive on July 22, while the Lanka IOC, a unit of Indian Oil Corporationis expecting a shipment of gasoline and diesel around July 13.
“The government is also trying to secure earlier fuel shipments. However, until these are confirmed, details will not be released.”
Doctors, nurses and paramedics say that despite being designated as essential workers, they still struggle to find enough fuel to get to work.
“This is an impossible situation, the government has to come up with a solution for us,” said HM Mediwatta, secretary of one of the Sri Lankalargest nursing union, All Island Nurses Uniontold reporters.
The South Asian nation’s deadliest economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948 occurred after Covid-19 defeated an economy dependent on tourism and cut remittances from foreign workers. outside.
Rising oil prices, populist tax cuts and a seven-month ban on chemical fertilizer imports last year have ravaged the agricultural sector, adding to the trouble.
Chairperson Gotabaya Rajapaksa said World Bank agreed to restructure 17 projects they are funding in Sri Lanka. The same support extended earlier was used to buy fuel and medicine.
He said on Twitter: “There will be more World Bank support once negotiations with the IMF are completed.
One International Monetary Fund The group is in Colombo to negotiate a bailout of up to $3 billion. Sri Lanka hopes to strike a staff-level deal on Thursday, but even so, it’s unlikely to bring in immediate cash.
A march to the presidential house of a union of bankers, teachers and freelancers was stopped by riot police, who set up barricades to guard the area.
“Things have become unbearable for ordinary people,” said an official with the teachers union. “We want this government to go home.”
More than 100 medical staff from the national hospital in Colombo marched to the prime minister’s office to urge the government to secure supplies of new fuel and drugs.
Public health inspectors and other health service workers also went on strike on Wednesday and Thursday.
The island of 22 million people has almost exhausted its foreign exchange reserves that can be used to import essential items such as food, medicine, gasoline and diesel.
As the crisis deepened, many people were detained trying to flee the country by boat.
The government is also seeking help from abroad, from countries from the Middle East to Russia.
On Tuesday, in an effort to secure fuel, the Secretary of Energy and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera met with Qatar’s foreign minister for energy affairs and the chief executive officer of Qatar Energy. He is also seeking a line of credit from a Qatar development fund.
Another Sri Lankan minister will travel to Russia over the weekend to seek energy deals.

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