Sri Lanka grinds to a halt as schools, offices shut

Published June 18, 2022
COLOMBO: A man sleeps on a folding bed on a sidewalk as he waits in line to buy petrol amid a fuel shortage on Friday.—Reuters
COLOMBO: A man sleeps on a folding bed on a sidewalk as he waits in line to buy petrol amid a fuel shortage on Friday.—Reuters

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities on Friday announced a two-week shutdown of government offices and schools, as public transport ground almost entirely to a halt due to a lack of dollars to pay for imported fuel.

The Public Administration ministry ordered all departments, public institutions and local councils to maintain skeleton services from Monday in response to the acute shortage of petrol and diesel.

“Due to scarce public transport as well as the inability to arrange private vehicles, it is decided to drastically curtail the number of employees repo­rting to work,” the ministry’s order said.

Sri Lanka is facing record high inflation and lengthy power blackouts, all of which have contributed to months of protests — sometimes violent — calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.

Country has no dollars to import fuel; long lines outside fuel pumps become regular feature

Earlier this week, authorities declared Friday a holiday in a bid to conserve fuel.

Despite that move, long queues were seen outside pumping stations on Friday, with many motorists saying they had waited for days to top up their tanks.

The education ministry said all schools have been asked to remain closed for two weeks from Monday and to ensure online teaching if students and teachers had access to electricity.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its 51 billion dollar foreign debt in April, and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2022

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