Colombo calls on the diaspora to send money – Newspaper

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka urged its citizens abroad to send money home to help pay for desperately needed food and fuel on Wednesday after announcing a debt default external of 51 billion dollars.

The island nation is in the grip of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with severe shortages of essential goods and regular power cuts causing widespread hardship.

Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe said he needed Sri Lankans abroad to “support the country at this crucial time by donating much-needed foreign currency”.

His call came a day after the government announced it was suspending repayments of all external debt, which will free up money to replenish meager supplies of gasoline, pharmaceuticals and other primary commodities. need.

Weerasinghe said he had opened bank accounts for the donations in the United States, Britain and Germany and promised Sri Lankan expats that the money would be spent where it was needed most.

The bank “assures that these foreign exchange transfers will only be used for the import of essential goods, including food, fuel and medicine,” Weerasinghe said in a statement.

Tuesday’s default announcement will save Sri Lanka about $200 million in interest payments falling due on Monday, he said, adding that the money would be diverted to pay for essential imports.

Weerasinghe’s appeal has so far been met with skepticism by Sri Lankans abroad. “We don’t mind helping, but we can’t trust the government with our money,” a Sri Lankan doctor in Australia told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

A Sri Lankan software engineer in Canada said he had no confidence that the money would be spent on the needy. “It could go in the same direction as the tsunami funds,” he said, referring to the millions of dollars the island received in aid after the December 2004 disaster.

Rumor has it that much of the foreign cash donations intended for survivors ended up in the pockets of politicians, including current Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was forced to return tsunami relief funds credited to his personal account.

Sri Lanka’s economic snowball crisis began to bite after the coronavirus pandemic torpedoed vital income from tourism and remittances.

Posted in Dawn, April 14, 2022

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