Fuel prices in Sri Lanka rose again on Sunday, exacerbating the suffering of the population, in connection with the arrival of the US delegation to discuss ways to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis.
State-owned Ceylon Petroleum announced a 15 percent increase in the price of diesel for public transport to Rs 460 (€1.21) per liter and a 22 percent increase in petrol prices to Rs 550 (€1.44).
The increase comes a day after Energy Minister Kanchan Wijeseker announced that several expected deliveries could not be delivered and were put on hold indefinitely.
Kanchana Wijesekera explained that oil shipments that were supposed to arrive last week did not appear, and deliveries scheduled for next week would not arrive due to “banking” reasons.
Official sources confirm that the remaining quantities in the country will last for two days, but the authorities are keeping them for basic services.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948 and has been unable to finance imports of basic commodities such as food, medicine and fuel since late last year.
A delegation from the Treasury and the US State Department arrived in the country to “consider the most effective ways for the US to help Sri Lankans in need,” the US embassy in Colombo said in a statement.
The embassy said it has released $158.75 million in new funding over the past two weeks to help Sri Lankans.
The United Nations has already requested $47 million in emergency assistance for the most vulnerable population of 22 million people.
About 1.7 million people are in need of “life-saving help” according to the UN, and four out of five people have reduced their food intake due to severe shortages and rising prices.
Last week, the fuel crisis prompted the government to close government offices and schools for two weeks to cut travel.
Several hospitals reported that a large number of their staff were absent due to lack of fuel.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned that the South Asian country would face difficulties for several more months.
“Our economy is facing a complete collapse,” Wickremesinghe said, adding: “Now we are facing a much more dangerous situation that goes beyond the simple lack of fuel, gas, electricity and food.”
The government has declared an inability to pay the country’s $51 billion foreign debt and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund about a possible bailout plan.