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Sri Lanka is closing schools, restricting work due to fuel shortages

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Sri Lanka is closing schools, restricting work due to fuel shortages

COLOMBA, Sri Lanka (AP) – Sri Lankan authorities have closed schools and asked government officials not to come to work in …

COLOMBA, Sri Lanka (AP) – Sri Lankan authorities have closed schools and asked government officials not to come to work in a desperate move to prepare for an acute fuel shortage that is expected to last several days amid the country’s worst economic crisis. recent decades.

The Ministry of Public Administration has asked government officials – other than those serving basic services – to stay home from work on Friday “due to current fuel shortages and problems at transport facilities” across the country.

State- and government-approved private schools also closed on Friday amid worsening fuel shortages, and thousands of people are waiting in line at gas stations across the country for days on end.

Sri Lanka is now almost without petrol and is facing an acute shortage of other fuels.

In recent months, the government has struggled to find money to pay for imports of fuel, gas and other necessities, as the island nation in the Indian Ocean is on the verge of bankruptcy.

His economic problems led to a political crisis, the government faced mass protests.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday swore in nine cabinet ministers, increasing the total to 13, trying to stabilize the government after a series of backlogs.

The new ministers include four independent deputies, three from the ruling and two from the main opposition party. Four deputies from the ruling party were appointed ministers last week.

Rajapaksa sought to form a unity government in early April, but the largest opposition political party, the United People’s Forces, rejected the offer.

For months, Sri Lankans have endured long queues to buy these essentials, most of them from abroad. The shortage of hard currency has also hampered imports of raw materials for production and exacerbated inflation.

Protesters blocked major roads to demand gas and fuel, and TV stations showed people in some areas fighting for limited supplies.

Authorities have announced power outages across the country for up to four hours a day because they cannot provide enough fuel for power plants.

Sri Lanka has suspended payments of about $ 7 billion in foreign loans to be repaid this year with $ 25 billion to be repaid by 2026. The country’s total foreign debt is $ 51 billion. The finance ministry says the country currently has only $ 25 million in useful foreign reserves.

Protesters have been occupying the president’s office for more than a month, urging Rajapaksa to resign.

Months of anti-government rallies have nearly dismantled a once powerful ruling family: one of the president’s brothers has stepped down as prime minister, while other siblings and nephews have left their posts in the cabinet. Protesters accuse Rajapaksa of causing a crisis through corruption and mismanagement.

Sri Lanka’s new prime minister, Ranil Vikremesinghe, said on Monday that about $ 75 billion was urgently needed to help provide basic necessities, but the country’s treasury was struggling to find even $ 1 billion.

Rajapaksa supporters’ attacks on protesters last week sparked violence across the country, killing nine people, including a lawmaker, and injuring more than 200. The houses of deputies and their supporters were burned.

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