US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has assured crisis-hit Sri Lanka of support to promote American investments in the country after the completion of IMF negotiations, as he spoke with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to discuss the island nation’s current economic and political challenges.
The two leaders spoke over the phone on Monday. Wickremesinghe explained the current status of the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He further said that Sri Lanka is willing to have closer cooperation with the US.
“It was a pleasure speaking to Secretary of State @SecBlinken. I briefed him on the current economic situation and requested for our countries to work closer. He assured his support to further promote US investments in Sri Lanka upon the completion of IMF negotiations,” Wickremesinghe tweeted.
Sri Lanka has decided to seek the assistance of the Washington-based global lender to combat the worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948. The talks between Sri Lanka and the IMF commenced on April 18.
US State Department in a statement said, “The Secretary and Prime Minister discussed Sri Lanka’s current economic and political challenges.”
“The Secretary affirmed the United States’ commitment to the Sri Lankan people during this challenging time and the importance of supporting reforms that address the concerns of all Sri Lankans, including on democratic governance and human rights,” it said.
The nearly bankrupt country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.
The IMF in May said that it requires sufficient assurance from the country that it will restore debt sustainability during the debt restructuring process.
The IMF is planning to send an in-person mission in the coming weeks to Sri Lanka for policy discussions on a financial arrangement.
The economic crisis has prompted an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and other fuel, toilet paper and even matches, with Sri Lankans for months being forced to wait in lines lasting hours outside stores to buy fuel and cooking gas.