By Mahua Venkatesh
New Delhi, May 13: The road ahead will be tough for Sri Lanka’s newly inducted Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe, as he takes charge amid a battered economy, bankrupt coffers and widespread violence. While the 73-year-old Prime Minister said that his focus will be to address the current economic crisis and steer Sri Lanka out of the woods, his actions will be scrutinised with a fine tooth comb not only within his country but outside too.
“I want to settle this problem to ensure the supply of petrol, diesel and electricity to the people,” Wickremesinghe said.
Although Wikremesinghe is no novice — this is his sixth time as PM — Sri Lanka is facing its worst crisis since independence.
“It will not be easy for the new leader to fix the battered economy, there are structural issues which need attention and resolving those will be time consuming,” an analyst with a ratings agency requesting anonymity told India Narrative. Many leaders earlier showed their reluctance to take charge at this daunting time.
That apart, his party, the United National Party (UNP) has just one seat in the 225 member Parliament.
“It is a terrible time to be the prime minister in Sri Lanka.. This will be his toughest run,” Sagala Ratnayaka, UNP national organiser, told Al Jazeera.
Wikremesinghe’s immediate task would be to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). That apart, he is expected to seek bilateral assistance from a host of countries including India and China.
He will have to restore peace and ensure availability of the essential items.
“Until these are done, the vital tourism industry will not take off. For Sri Lanka, tourism is the lifeline and to ensure economic activities resume, it will be crucial to kickstart the tourism industry… the country needs inflow of foreign tourists,” the analyst quoted earlier added.
India’s assistance to Sri Lanka
India, which has assured assistance to Sri Lanka, has already disbursed aid of about $3.5 billion.
“Since mid-March, over 270,000 metric tonnes of diesel and petrol have been delivered to Sri Lanka. In addition, around 40,000 tonnes of rice have been supplied under the recently extended USD 1 billion credit facility,” Arindam Bagchi, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson told the media last month.
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