Colombo July 31 2022: Sri Lanka’s new leader said an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to help pull the bankrupt nation out of its economic crisis has been pushed back to September because of street protests over the past weeks, the Associated Press reported.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe said he had initially aimed to reach an agreement by early August but talks with the IMF on a rescue package had slowed down, the report said, citing a Saturday speech.
The South Asian island nation is mired in its worst economic crisis since independence. It is looking to a bailout program from the IMF and securing dollars from friendly nations to end crippling shortages of essential items that have stalled economic activity and pushed inflation to about 60%.
Wickremesinghe was voted in as the country’s president on July 20, as his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee to Singapore after angry protesters stormed his official residence and office.
However, the new president, a veteran politician, is also deeply unpopular among the protesters. He was backed by a majority of lawmakers from Rajapaksa’s party, and is seen as an ally of the ousted leader.
Wickremesinghe has put in place emergency measures that allow the army and police sweeping powers to question, detain and arrest people. He’s also called in the military to maintain law and order.
The government has cracked down on the organizers of the street protests that forced out the former leader and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who resigned as prime minister in May.