Debt-laden Sri Lanka marks independence day

Debt-Laden Sri Lanka Marks Independence Day
Ranil Wickremesinghe and Srettha Thavisin
Share this article

By Bharatha Mallawarachi, Associated Press

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin was the guest of honour at Sri Lanka’s 76th independence day celebrations on Sunday, as the island nation struggles to emerge from its worst economic crisis.

Mr Srettha joined Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe at a low-key ceremony near the country’s main seaside esplanade that included a military parade and parachute jumps.


The holiday commemorates Sri Lanka’s independence from British rule in 1948.

Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy in April 2022 with more than £65 billion in debt, more than half of it to foreign creditors.

The economic upheaval led to a political crisis that forced then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign in 2022. The parliament then elected Mr Wickremesinghe as president.

Mr Srettha arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday and the two countries signed a free trade agreement aiming to boost trade and investment.


Srettha Thavisin, centre
Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, centre, with Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawaradane, left, and the First Lady of Sri Lanka Maithree Wickremesinghe during independence day commemorations (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

Mr Wickremesinghe said on Saturday that Sri Lanka has made significant progress in economic stabilisation and sought the help of Thailand in efforts to transform the battered economy and regain international confidence.

Sri Lanka suspended repayment of its debt in 2022 as it ran short of foreign currency needed to pay for imports of fuel and other essentials. Shortages led to street protests that changed the country’s leadership.


The International Monetary Fund approved a four-year bailout programme last March.

The economic situation has improved under Mr Wickremesinghe, and severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine have largely abated.

But public dissatisfaction has grown over the government’s effort to increase revenue by raising electricity bills and imposing heavy new income taxes on professionals and businesses, as part of the efforts to meet the IMF conditions.

Sri Lanka is hoping to restructure £13.5 billion of its outstanding debt and has already reached agreements with some of its external creditors.


Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by