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Sri Lanka Courts Rivals China, India to Help With Debt

The country of 22 million people is struggling with its worst financial crisis in seven decades, unable to import essentials including food, fuel and medicines

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Sri Lanka plans to convene a meeting with China, India, plus Japan to help find a way out of its crippling economic problems.
Hirunika Premachandra, leader of Sri Lankan opposition party Samagi Vanitha Balawegaya, hugs a police officer during a protest near Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's home in Colombo on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters.

 

Sri Lanka plans to convene a meeting with China and India – rivals for influence over the South Asian island nation – as well as Japan, to help find a way out of its crippling economic problems.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he hopes an Asian donor conference will drum up more foreign assistance.

India has so far provided around $3 billion worth of assistance, including a $400 million swap and credit lines totalling $1.5 billion.

China is considering an appeal from Sri Lanka to renegotiate the terms of a yuan-denominated swap worth $1.5 billion to fund essential imports.

The prime minister said talks were continuing with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donors, including the US.

The country of 22 million people is struggling with its worst financial crisis in seven decades, unable to import essentials including food, fuel and medicines because of a severe shortage of foreign exchange.

 

Donor Conference

The dearth of basic necessities and spiralling inflation has stoked public unrest.

“We need the support of India, Japan and China who have been historic allies,” Wickremesinghe told parliament.

“We plan to convene a donor conference with the involvement of these countries to find solutions for Sri Lanka’s crisis. We will also seek help from the US.”

A high-level delegation from India arrives on Thursday and a team from the US Treasury will visit next week, Wickremesinghe said.

Negotiations with an IMF team, which arrived in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital Colombo this week, have made progress, with a staff-level agreement with the lender likely by the end of the month.

“We have discussed multiple points including fiscal policy, debt restructuring and direct cash transfers,” he said.

Sri Lanka, which suspended payment on $12 billion of foreign debt in April, is seeking around $3 billion from the IMF to put its public finances on track and access bridge financing.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell

 

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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