The last of the fuel shipments due under the Indian Line of Credit are arriving in Sri Lanka this month with no indications on the sustenance of future supplies which are dependent on India’s assistance. Sri Lanka is going through the worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948.
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.
“We are expecting the last diesel shipment under ILC (Indian Line of Credit) on June 16 and the last petrol shipment on June 22,” energy minister Kanchana Wijesekara told reporters.
Sri Lanka’s fuel purchases have been totally dependent on the ILC – a USD 500 million credit line initially which was supplemented with another USD 200 million later. The island has been experiencing long lines for fuel refilling since mid-February with pressure coming on the diesel supplies for thermal power generation.
By early April the island was experiencing 10-hour power cuts due to shortages of diesel and furnace oil for power generation. Wijesekara said the minimum daily requirement of diesel was 5,000 metric tonnes (MT) as people need it to run private generators due to the power cuts imposed.
“We only issued between 2,800-3,000 MT on a priority basis last week,” Wijesekara said adding that the full requirement of diesel per week is now being supplied.
He said the daily requirement of petrol was 3,500 MT. “Since last Tuesday we have been issuing 3,000-3,200 MT daily”. He said the situation related to kerosene oil was much more serious. The fisheries and agricultural sectors use kerosene oil.
“We are sending kerosene to selected fishing areas, kerosene supplies are being widely abused as some are using them to run vehicles,” he said.
With the difficulties faced in fuel supplies, the government said it was working on extending credit lines from India for fuel purchases.
India has helped Sri Lanka with thousands of tonnes of diesel and petrol, apart from food and medical supplies, to help ease the acute fuel shortage in the debt-ridden island nation.
In a statement, the Indian High Commission here on Friday said: “It may be recalled that in line with its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and as an earnest friend and partner of Sri Lanka, India has extended multi-pronged assistance to the people of Sri Lanka in the last few months.” “The support from India ranges from economic assistance of close to USD 3.5 billion to helping secure Sri Lanka’s food, health and energy security by supplying essential items like food, medicines, fuel, kerosene etc,” it said.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Wednesday no country except India is providing money to the crisis-hit island nation for fuel.