ASIA/SRI LANKA - Between poverty and discontent, the nation struggles to recover from the economic and social crisis

Monday, 7 November 2022 politics   society   development   finance   poverty  

Colombo (Agenzia Fides) - Sri Lanka is struggling in economic and social recovery, while it is going through the systemic crisis that has shocked the nation since the first months of the year 2022.
As analysts say, multi-billion dollar loans from international institutions have stabilized the nation financially, but the lack of reforms and further economic difficulties could affect the population and generate new street demonstrations. "We are struggling to overcome the crisis, we see many people in a serious state of poverty", notes to Fides Fr. Basil Rohan Fernando, priest of the Archdiocese of Colombo and Nation Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Sri Lanka.
"The way forward can only be to overcome selfishness, choose sharing and national solidarity. Many young people and students are asking for a change of government and are pressing for a better future. Thinking of the younger generations, we all have a duty to work for prosperity, for development, to guarantee a dignified life for every citizen", he observes.
The Indian Ocean island with 22 million inhabitants, suffered from a widespread crisis of shortage of fuel, raw materials and basic necessities at the beginning of 2022. This has led to a wave of national protests culminating in the ousting of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who left the country last July. Three months before, Sri Lanka defaulted on its $ 50 billion foreign debt.
A $ 4 billion support package was approved by India and will temporarily support the government of new President Ranil Wickremesinghe. The nation is well on its way to obtaining approval for another 2.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF, however, made it clear that Sri Lanka must restructure its debts with China and other creditors: the IMF loan is subordinated on the government adopting strict economic measures. The measures outlined by the IMF aim to "restore macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability, safeguarding financial stability, reducing the vulnerabilities of corruption and unlocking Sri Lanka's growth potential".
President Ranil Wickremesinghe of the United National Party (UNP), appointed Prime Minister by former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa last May, became, after a few months, interim president on July 13, when Rajapaksa fled. Among his first steps, he declared a state of emergency nationwide, increasing tensions among the demonstrators. Not having been elected in the general elections, he is contested and part of the population is still calling for the dissolution of Parliament and new elections. Opponents of the Wickremesinghe administration argue that he is denying the people the democratic right to elections, masking it with a project of political reform.
"The politicization of institutions that should be impartial; corruption widespread in political circles; nepotism, patronage have harmed Sri Lankan society. There are parliamentarians accused of corruption and other crimes. Other politicians, convicted, have been pardoned by president Rajapaksa and have received state appointments. In a climate of serious political impunity, the people are asking for transparency, democracy", note sources of Fides in the nation.
In this context, the Sri Lankan Parliament approved in recent weeks a constitutional amendment aimed at reducing presidential powers and strengthening anti-corruption safeguards. The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution shifts some of the President's powers to the Constitutional Council, which represents both the government and the opposition, and to other independent bodies (such as the National Electoral Commission, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Commission of investigation on corruption), led by independent, non-political personalities. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/11/2022)