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Sri Lanka receives $160 million from World Bank; PM says looking at possibility of using some of it to buy fuel

Angry protesters in Colombo blocked several roads as part of the protest against ongoing fuel and gas shortages caused by the economic crisis

Angry protesters in Colombo blocked several roads as part of the protest against ongoing fuel and gas shortages caused by the economic crisis

Sri Lanka has received $160 million from the World Bank and is looking at the possibility of using some of it to buy fuel, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament on May 18, as protests continued in the country against the ongoing fuel and gas shortages caused by the economic crisis.

“160 million dollars has been received from the World Bank and a grant from the ADB (Asian Development Bank) is also expected,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said.

He said the money received from the World Bank cannot be used to buy fuel.

“We are trying to see if we can use some of it for fuel purchases,” he said.

Mr. Wickremesinghe in his address to the nation on Monday said that two more petrol shipments under the Indian credit line were due this week and by May 29.

His remarks came as angry protesters blocked several roads on Wednesday as part of the protest against ongoing fuel and gas shortages caused by the economic crisis.

Miles-long queues were seen around every fuel station.

Kanchana Wijesekera, the energy minister, said there was no petrol in stock and it would only be by the weekend that petrol would be available at pumping stations.

“We have not got dollars to get a petrol shipment released and we only have very little petrol stock for essential service. We are sorry for that. Please do not wait in queues. It will take another three days for distribution,” Mr. Wijesekera told Parliament.

He said there are adequate supplies of diesel.

Mr. Wijesekera said $53 million for a petrol shipment that was delivered in January had not been paid since the end of March.

Mr. Wijesekera said cooking gas unloading was hindered by prevailing bad weather due to the monsoon rains.

Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948. A crippling shortage of foreign reserves has led to long queues for fuel, cooking gas and other essentials while power cuts and soaring food prices heaped misery on the people.

The economic crisis also triggered a political crisis in Sri Lanka and a demand for the resignation of the powerful Rajapaksas.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sacked his Cabinet and appointed a younger Cabinet as a response to the demand for his resignation. A continuous protest opposite his secretariat has now gone on for well over a month.

On May 9, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as the prime minister to make way for the President to appoint an interim all political party government. Mr. Wickremesinghe was appointed the country’s new Prime Minister on Thursday.


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