President Gotabaya Rajapaksa introduces emergency regulations to control the prices of essential food items as private banks run out of foreign currency to finance imports.
Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency over food shortages as private banks run out of foreign currency to finance imports.
While the country is facing a severe economic crisis, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Tuesday that he had ordered emergency regulations to counter the accumulation of sugar, rice and other essential foods.
The regulations give officials wide power to seize food supplies held by merchants, arrest people who collect essential food and require the government to set controlled prices.
Rajapaksa has appointed a top military officer as commissioner-general of essential services to coordinate the supply of rice, rice, sugar and other consumer goods.
The move follows sharp price increases for sugar, rice, onions and potatoes, while long queues arose outside stores due to a shortage of milk powder, petroleum and cooking gas, despite the country being under a 16-day deadline until next Monday. starting point is. increase in cases of COVID-19.
Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said some traders were stockpiling stocks, leading to a shortage of food and causing inconvenience to the public.
The government has increased the fines for food accumulation, but the shortfall comes because the country of 21 million is experiencing a severe coronavirus wave that claims more than 200 lives a day.
The economy shrank by a record 3.6 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic and in March last year the government banned the import of vehicles and other items, including edible oils and turmeric, an essential spice in local cuisine, to foreign to save currency.
Importers still say they were unable to get dollars to pay for the food and medicine they may buy.
Two weeks ago, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka raised interest rates to strengthen the local currency.
Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves fell to $ 2.8 billion at the end of July, from $ 7.5 billion in November 2019 when the government took office and the rupee at that time exceeded 20 percent of its value against the US dollar. lost, according to bank data.
Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila has called on motorists to use fuel sparingly so that the country can use its foreign currency to buy essential medicines and vaccines.
A presidential assistant warned that fuel rationing could be introduced by the end of the year unless consumption is reduced.
Meanwhile, there has been a rapid increase in COVID-19 deaths in Sri Lanka over the past few weeks, with more than 200 deaths per day and more than 4,500 daily cases reported in the past 10 days.
According to official figures, Sri Lanka has recorded 8,991 deaths related to COVID cases since the start of the pandemic.