04/05/2022, 15.20
SRI LANKA
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Economists ask for a debt moratorium to exit crisis

by Arundathie Abeysinghe

The leaders of eleven parties have asked President Rajapaksa for an interim government to adopt new policies to cope with a shortage of basic goods. Sirisena's Sri Lanka Freedom Party left the ruling coalition. Four main Buddhist groups call for the government to step aside.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The leaders of an eleven-party alliance that has the majority in the Sri Lankan parliament have asked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to form an interim government to adopt new policies as a first step to resolve the country's economic crisis. This follows the resignation of every cabinet minister in the wake of countrywide protests.

Political analysts agree that a new interim government should not follow the policies that have aggravated the current crisis, but implement concrete solutions to deal with high food prices, shortages of food as well as fuel, gas and electricity and essential medicines.

The main cause of the current crisis is the lack of dollars in the state's coffers, economic analysts told AsiaNews. Like most countries of the world facing similar economic crises, loans and interest payments should be delayed through a moratorium policy for a period of five years.

Had this been done instead of repaying a US$ 6 billion loan, money would have been used to obtain essential goods to alleviate the country’s suffering.

Some left-wing parties, including the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), believe the government should not seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as this would only lead to further debt.

Recently, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, leader of the United National Party (UNP), denied reports suggesting that he was asked to form a national unity government.

According to UNP sources, the only solution is a national consensus with a caretaker government of all parties under the Chief Justice to organise elections as soon as possible.

According to government sources, representatives from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by former President Maithripala Sirisena met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday for urgent talks, but nothing came of them.

The SLFP has decided to leave the ruling coalition and its members now sit separately in Parliament.

For his part, President Rajapaksa, who discussed the crisis with 132 MPs from his coalition, asked all political parties in Parliament to offer their help in finding solutions to current economic challenges. He also appointed four ministers to conduct government business until a full cabinet is appointed.

The leaders of Sri Lanka's four major Buddhist groups also wrote to President Rajapaksa, presenting six proposals to resolve the economic crisis, including the formation of an interim government.

Meanwhile, protests continue in various parts of the country with larger crowds, which now include professionals, artists and students. In addition, protests are being reported among Sri Lanka communities around the world.

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