Lankan officials asked to remove obstacles to India-backed projects

Wednesday 14th September 2022 06:58 EDT

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's president asked officials to resolve obstacles to projects backed by India, a government statement said, without specifying what the obstacles were. President Ranil Wickremesinghe chaired a discussion on the progress of several development projects under Indian investment, and told officials "to take steps to resolve the obstacles that have arisen in the progress of several projects in Sri Lanka under Indian investments". India has offered support of billions of dollars this year to its southern neighbour, which is facing its worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Prez under fire

The Lankan President has come under fire from the opposition over his government expansion with 37 state ministers and with moves underway to appoint at least 12 more Cabinet ministers soon at a time when the nation is facing bankruptcy.
Wickremesinghe, earlier, appointed 37 junior ministers, largely representing the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. The 37 new posts are in addition to the 20-member Cabinet. Talks are also underway to appoint at least 12 more Cabinet ministers soon. The opposition has condemned the president’s move, arguing that the government could ill afford the expansion at a time when the country is going through its worst economic crisis and the recent tax hikes have heaped burden on the people. “The president and the government have no regard for the suffering of the people who are facing high cost of living,” said Sajith Premadasa, leader of the main opposition party SJB.

US ready to assist

A visiting US diplomat said Washington is ready to assist Lanka with its debt restructuring process and reiterated that all the island nation’s creditors, including China must cooperate in this endeavour. Earlier this month, Sri Lanka secured a staff-level deal for a $2. 9 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), even as the country has an arduous task to restructure its debt with its creditors. All the Sri Lankan creditors have to agree to restructure their existing loans to the nation before the IMF starts disbursing the loan. “It is imperative that all of Sri Lanka’s creditors, notably China, cooperates in this process openly. When debt becomes unsustainable, as it has become in Sri Lanka, this cooperation could mean the difference between life or death,” USAID administrator Samantha Power said. It is estimated that Sri Lanka owes debt payments of $2 billion this year to China, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest creditors.

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