06/27/2023, 13.10
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Colombo, inflation at 80%: citizens sell furniture to buy food

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

About 34 per cent of Sri Lankans resorted to these resources, while 45 per cent of those who pawned their jewellery or three-wheelers failed to redeem them. Some families have committed suicide after mortgaging their homes, and many students have dropped out of university. The government announced a restructuring of the domestic debt.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - With inflation at 80% and soaring costs of basic necessities, Sri Lankans are forced to sell many of their belongings including household furniture to buy essential food and medicine. According to surveys, about 34% of Sri Lankans have resorted to such activity, while 45% of those who pawned their jewellery or three-wheelers failed to redeem them. 

In many parts of Sri Lanka, trucks travel from town to town to buy household furniture (in good condition) and then resell it. Until a few months ago, this practice was common in the cities where the cost of living is higher, but now it has also spread to the villages, where people often also sell the table or chairs and consequently now eat their meals sitting on a mat or on the floor. 

Some people have also borrowed illegal money to pay bills and buy food. Recently, several families in Jaffna, Hatton and Galle committed suicide after mortgaging their homes because they had nowhere else to live. Despite the intervention of several non-governmental organisations and social workers, philanthropic activities are unable to provide help to all. 

Sri Lanka has been facing a severe economic crisis since March 2022. 

Economic analyst Chandima Tennakoon explained to AsiaNews that 'several factors, including rising debt and political mismanagement, have led to this situation.

No measures have been taken to control inflation. Apart from the rich and politicians, millions of citizens, regardless of social class, have been affected by this situation. Before 2022, people belonging to the middle class were able to manage their household expenses without too many problems. But at the moment they are the most affected.

Low-income people used to be able to borrow money from middle-class people, but now the situation of low-income people is very sad.

Professor Ruwan Dissanayaka added that 'after food inflation reached 80 per cent in June this year, about six million Sri Lankans are in a situation of food insecurity. From salt to rice, all staples have become expensive'. In addition, he added, 'many students at our university do not attend classes and some have given up the dream of higher education because their parents cannot afford the expenses.

Most of them come from rural areas and their parents currently have no income but take out loans to meet their daily expenses'.

"In the last period alone, 20 undergraduates from our faculty have reported that they have decided to drop out of their studies," the lecturer continued. "Some decided to start working as farmers in their villages, while others decided to go to the Middle East as labourers. The parents of some undergraduates have lost their jobs due to the closure of many factories, including garment factories. As a result, they are unable to feed their family members, including younger siblings. In the past, many professors in our faculty had set up a small fund to help students in financial difficulty. But now even we are unable to do so because of the high cost of living.

In recent days, the Sri Lankan government has announced that it will announce a restructuring of its domestic debt to meet the targets set by the International Monetary Fund. Due to the shortage of foreign currency in May last year, the country had to declare default on its external debt. The lender is expected to provide USD 2.9 billion to reduce the total debt to 95 per cent of gross domestic product by 2032.

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