What Sparked the Protests in Sri Lanka?

What Sparked the Protests in Sri Lanka?

One of the biggest reasons Sri Lankan residents took to the streets on Saturday is the country’s desperate need for fuel and other energy supplies. The South Asian nation has run out of foreign currency to pay for fuel, bringing its economy grinding to a halt.

The acute fuel shortages have meant that food and medicines can’t be transported. Fresh produce from farms can’t make it to cities. People can’t travel in cars, buses or trains. The government has even asked airlines to make sure they’re carrying enough fuel for their return flights because it can no longer provide jet fuel.

“People are very angry because once fuel is not available, they can’t do anything,” said W. A. Wijewardena, an economist and a former deputy governor for Sri Lanka’s central bank.

The situation is so bad that Sri Lanka’s president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has sought the help of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. On Wednesday, Mr. Rajapaksa said on Twitter that he had spoken to Mr. Putin by phone to ask him for “credit support” to import fuel in the country.

Mr. Rajapaksa’s decision to request help from Russia shows Sri Lanka’s limited options at a time when oil and gas prices have skyrocketed because of the war in Ukraine, experts say. Even the country’s closest ally, India, has refused to provide more fuel supplies unless Sri Lanka pays for it in advance. Since January, India has provided about $3.5 billion in food, fuel and medicines to the country.

Mr. Wijewardena said that in the days to come, Sri Lankans would have to sacrifice modern comforts. “We will have to walk because we cannot use our cars anymore,” he said.

“The liquid has overtaken the entirety of our modern economy.”

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