Far from Ukraine, Sri Lanka is the epicenter of the global crisis

(Washington Post); War in Ukraine can still dominate international headlines. But it’s a country far from the battlefield, a kind of crucible of global moments. For months, Sri Lanka has been in a spiral of economic death: first exacerbated by pandemic sacrifices, then the public debt crisis exacerbated by the turmoil caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: food, fuel, Cash and other necessities that led to a shortage of cooking gas, medicines.

A UN study reported that about 70% of Sri Lankan households reduced food consumption, with food price inflation of about 57% (as opposed to about 10% in the United States last year). Countries with 22 million people are more or less short of fuel, and fresh cargo is still a few days away.

Although the government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa collapsed in May due to public anger and rising protests, the crisis persisted and there were concerns about the possibility of a new clash between security forces and ordinary angry civilians. It is increasing. Rolling power cuts, as well as a few days line of fuel, are now a standard part of everyday life. Schools and offices were closed for at least a week to keep Sri Lankans away from the road.

Last week, doctors, medical staff, teachers and bankers in the capital Colombo marched in protest of not having the gasoline and diesel needed to carry out important tasks. “Things have become unbearable for the general public,” said a Reuters teachers union official.

In May, Sri Lanka defaulted for the first time in its history as an independent country. The interim government, led by knowledgeable veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe, is trying to get the country out of the question, including seeking help from the regional powers of India and China.

But for countries that can’t afford to import, the road remains bleak. The government has filed a rather desperate complaint. It introduced plans to give civil servants extra holidays to grow crops in their backyards, and also offered the possibility of taking five years of unpaid leave to all 1.5 million public sector workers in the country. .. Get a job abroad, immigrate and send your long-awaited remittance home.

The line of passport offices has also become long, and the country’s online application system has been stagnant for months. The most desperate thing is trying to flee to neighboring countries such as India by boat. Analysts liken the annihilation of the Sri Lankan economy to the financial turmoil of the major Southeast Asian economies in the late 1990s. Others have warned that Sri Lanka has become “Lebanon in South Asia” and is in debt and dysfunctional.

The 10-day negotiations on a potential bailout package, which began on June 20 between the state’s interim government and International Monetary Fund officials, ended last week without a resolution. “In the past, we have been discussing as a developing country,” Wickremesinghe said on Tuesday. “But now the situation is different. We are currently in the negotiations as a bankrupt country, so we have to face more difficult and complex situations.”

The problem in Sri Lanka is, in many respects, specific to the situation and self-harm. But the astonishing collapse of the country is also closely linked to a broader and interlocking set of global phenomena. The war in Ukraine has caused global food and energy prices to skyrocket, pushing up the harsh conditions of Sri Lanka from end to end.

“Even if there was no war in Ukraine, Sri Lanka would be at stake, but it’s making everything worse,” said Alan Keenan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group consultant, earlier this year with my colleague Gerry Sea. Said to. “This is a Ukrainian influence. The fuel credit line, which I expected to last for two months, now lasts for one month. Even if you get relief, you have less food, less fuel, more. I’m buying less medicine. “

Similar pressures exist elsewhere. In May, in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, which were devastated by the drought, one person died of starvation every 48 seconds, according to a joint report by international humanitarian organization Oxfam and Save the Children. The conflict in Ukraine has caused prices to skyrocket to record levels, leaving millions of people in East Africa “out of reach” for food.

“The number of people experiencing extreme hunger in the three countries has more than doubled since last year — from more than 10 million to more than 23 million today,” the organization said in a statement. “This has more than tripled within 10 years, from $ 20.7 billion in 2012 to $ 65.3 billion by 2020, depriving these countries of resources from public services and social protection, a catastrophic event. Against the background of debt. “

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