There will be hunger and massive unemployment somewhere in the middle of next year if Sri Lanka does not resolve its foreign exchange crisis, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned.
Pointing out that there is a major shortage of dollars in local banks and that many of them are in debt to foerign banks, the UNP leader said that the country's foreign exchange reserves could fall below USD 3 billion after a USD 1 billion ISB is settled later this month.
"We are now in the middle of a foreign exchange crisis. Our reserves amount to USD 4 billion. Once we settle the bond issues mid year, we will be left with about USD 3 billion. The unpaid dollar bills of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation alone amounts to USD 1.3 billion," Wickremesinghe said.
He noted that the government's decision to move ahead with organic fertiliser is simply a cover for the government's bankruptcy.
"Parents can't pay the fees of their children studying abroad. There's an oil tanker and we can't find the dollars to pay for it. Similarly, we cannot bring in fertiliser. This whole organic fertiliser is just a cover for government's bankruptcy," he said.
He alleged that the foreign exchange crisis had forced the government to limit its inoculation drive to only those above the age of thirty as they coudn't procure enough vaccines.
He also stressed that the government must seek the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to overcome this crisis.
"The IMF has decided to issue USD 650 billion to be divided among the 119 member nations. Under that, we will receive USD 800 million dollars but that is not enough. That cannot cover everything. Since there is no other alternative, we must go to the IMF and negotiate so that we have sufficient money for the next two years," he said.
The former Premier further said that going with the IMF programme will allow Sri Lanka to get more aid from India, China, Japan and the other countries.
Wickremesinghe also called for a debate on the foreign exchange crisis that the country is facing at the moment.
"We will call for a full debate in parliament for the government to explain how they're going to overcome this crisis. If we do not do this, there will be hunger and massive unemployment somewhere in the middle of next year. The government as well as the parliament need to prevent it. The control of public finance lies in parliament," he added.