Sri Lankans have been urged not to queue for gasoline because the country is on the edge of default and lacks the funds to pay for a fuel cargo.
Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera told parliament on Wednesday that a petrol ship was in their seas. “We don’t have any currency.”
The minister stated that Sri Lanka “hopes” to release the ship “today or tomorrow.” He said, without explaining, that the country owes the same source $53 million for a previous cargo of gasoline.
The island nation is experiencing its worst economic downturn since independence. Shortages of everything from food to cooking gas have resulted in Asia’s fastest inflation, with prices jumping over 30% and causing social and political upheaval.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has been in office for less than a week, said on Monday that the country only has one day’s supply of gasoline and that the government is working to obtain dollars on the open market to pay for three ships carrying crude oil and furnace oil that are anchored in Sri Lankan waters.
He told parliament on Wednesday that the administration was in talks with the World Bank about using some of the $160 million in social welfare funding to buy petroleum imports.
Sri Lanka’s fuel requirement for June is anticipated to be $530 million, according to Wijesekera, and current gasoline supplies are being prioritised for important services such as ambulances. He said that the country currently has sufficient diesel supplies.