NEW DELHI: Sri Lanka asked citizens not to queue for gasoline as the nation on the verge of default has no dollars to pay for a fuel shipment.
“There is a petrol ship in our waters,” energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera told parliament Wednesday. “We do not have the forex.”
Sri Lanka “hopes” to release the ship “today or tomorrow,” the minister said. The nation also owes the same supplier $53 million for an earlier shipment of gasoline, he added, without elaborating.
The island nation is in the worst economic tailspin of its independent history. Shortages of everything from food to cooking gas have resulted in Asia’s fastest inflation — with prices surging almost 30% — and spilling over into social unrest and political turmoil.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe — less than a week into the job — said on Monday the nation has only one day’s stock of gasoline and the government is working to obtain dollars in the open market to also pay for three ships with crude oil and furnace oil that have been anchored in Sri Lankan waters.
He said in parliament on Wednesday that the government was in discussions with the World Bank to channel part of the $160 million aid provided for social welfare, for purchasing fuel imports.
Wijesekera said Sri Lanka’s fuel requirement for June is estimated at $530 million, and current supplies of petrol are being prioritized for essential services such as ambulances.
The nation currently has sufficient stocks of diesel, he added.