Sri Lanka has increased the price of fuel by up to 22%% after the energy minister warned it had virtually run out of petrol and diesel after several expected shipments were delayed.
Kanchana Wijesekera apologised to motorists as he said on Saturday that oil cargoes that were due last week did not turn up, while those scheduled to arrive next week will also not reach Sri Lanka due to “banking” reasons.
Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) said on Sunday it had raised the price of diesel, used widely in public transport, deur 15% aan 460 rupees ($1.27) a litre while upping petrol 22% aan 550 rupees ($1.52).
A delegation from the US Treasury and the State Department has arrived for talks to “explore the most effective ways for the US to support Sri Lankans in need”, the US embassy in Colombo said.
“As Sri Lankans endure some of the greatest economic challenges in their history, our efforts to support economic growth and strengthen democratic institutions have never been more critical,” US ambassador Julie Chung said in a statement.
The embassy said it had committed $158.75m in new financing in the past two weeks to help Sri Lankans.
The UN has already issued an emergency appeal to raise $47m to feed the most vulnerable segments of the island’s 22 miljoen mense.
Oor 1.7 million need “life-saving assistance”, according to the UN, with four out of five people reducing their food intake due to severe shortages and galloping prices.
Sri Lanka is facing a serious shortage of foreign exchange to finance even the most essential imports, including food, fuel and medicines, and is appealing for international handouts.
Minister Wijesekera said the state-run CPC was unable to say when fresh oil supplies will be on the island. The corporation had also shut its only refinery over a shortage of crude oil, hy het bygevoeg.
The refinery started operation earlier this month using 90,000 tonnes of Russian crude oil bought through Dubai-based Coral Energy on two-month credit terms.
Wijesekera said he regretted that deliveries of “petrol, diesel and crude oil shipments due earlier this week and next week” would not be fulfilled “on time for banking and logistical reasons”.
Scarce supplies left in the country will be distributed through a handful of pumping stations, hy het gesê.
Public transport and power generation will be given priority, Wijesekera added, urging motorists not to queue up for fuel.
“I apologise for the delay and inconvenience,” the minister said as hundreds of thousands of motorists spent long hours waiting for petrol and diesel across the impoverished nation.
Verlede week, troops opened fire to quell rioting at a fuel station in Visuvamadu, 365km (228 myl) north of Colombo. Police said four civilians and three soldiers were wounded in the first instance of the army using live ammunition to contain unrest linked to the worsening economic crisis.
The government has shut non-essential state institutions along with schools for two weeks to reduce commuting because of the energy crisis, as well as giving public servants time off to grow food.
Several hospitals across the country reported a sharp drop in the attendance of medical staff due to the fuel shortage.
Die eerste minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, warned parliament on Wednesday that the South Asian nation of 22 million people will continue to face hardships for a few more months and urged people to use fuel sparingly.
“Our economy has faced a complete collapse,” Wickremesinghe said.
“We are now facing a far more serious situation beyond the mere shortages of fuel, gas, electricity and food.”
Unable to repay its $51bn foreign debt, the government declared it was defaulting in April and is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a possible bailout.