Crisis-hit Sri Lankan economy rebounds as tourists return

Published March 17, 2024
COLOMBO: A vendor sells prawns at the Galle Face sea-front promenade. The arrival of tourists in Sri Lanka more than doubled to 210,000 in December 2023 from a year ago.—AFP
COLOMBO: A vendor sells prawns at the Galle Face sea-front promenade. The arrival of tourists in Sri Lanka more than doubled to 210,000 in December 2023 from a year ago.—AFP

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s economy rebounded stro­ngly in the fourth quarter of 2023 from the island nation’s unprecedented financial crisis as tourism arrivals rose, the government said on Saturday.

Agriculture, industries and services boosted the expansion to 4.5 per cent in the December quarter compared to a 12.4pc contraction a year earlier, the census and statistics department said.

It added however that the economy shrank by 2.4pc overall during 2023 compared to a contraction of 7.8pc in 2022, when the country defaulted on its $46 billion foreign debt.

“Sri Lanka’s economy experienced some kind of duality in 2023,” the department said in a statement, noting that the first half of the year recorded negative growth while the economy bounced back in the second.

“The long-awaited boom in tourism came towards the end of the year,” the department said, adding that worker remittances too had improved.

The number of tourists visiting the South Asian nation jumped to 210,000 in December, more than double the 91,900 a year earlier.

Sri Lanka is currently drawing down a four-year $2.9 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund and is in talks with foreign creditors over a debt restructure.

The peak of the economic crisis in 2022 saw months of food, fuel and pharmaceutical shortages after the island ran out of foreign exchange to pay for imports.

The resulting civil unrest forced the ouster of then-president Gotabaya Raja­paksa when protesters stormed his residence in July of that year.

His successor Ranil Wick­re­mesinghe has doubled taxes, withdrawn generous energy subsidies and raised prices of essentials to shore up state revenue.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2024

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