Sri Lanka‘s energy minister has issued a stern warning over the country’s fuel stockpile as it faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years. On Sunday, Kanchana Wijesekera said that under regular demand, there is only enough petrol left in the country for less than a day.
He also said that its next petrol shipment was not for more than two weeks. Last week, Sri Lanka suspended the sale of petrol and diesel for non-essential vehicles as it struggles to pay for imports such as fuel, food and medicines.
Mr Wijesekera told reporters that the country is left with 12,774 tonnes of diesel and 4,061 tonnes of petrol.
A shipment of diesel is expected over the weekend, however, Mr Wijesekera warned that the country does not have enough money to pay for the planned fuel and crude oil imports.
He said Sri Lanka‘s central bank could only supply $125 million for fuel purchases, far less than the $587 million needed for scheduled shipments. Mr Wijesekera said the country owed $800m to seven suppliers for purchases made earlier this year.
This comes after Sri Lanka banned the sale of fuel for private vehicles till next week.
Experts believe it is the first country to take the drastic step of stopping the sale of petrol to the general public since the oil crisis of the 1970s when the fuel was rationed in the US and Europe.
The island nation of 22 million people is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from the UK in 1948 as it lacks enough foreign exchange to pay for imports of essential goods.
The acute shortage of fuel, food and medicines has helped drive the cost of living to record highs in the country, where many depend on motor vehicles for their livelihood.
Last Thursday, an International Monetary Fund team concluded a new round of talks with Sri Lanka on a $3 billion (£2.5 billion) bailout deal.
Although no agreement has yet been reached, the team said in a statement that it had “made significant progress in defining a comprehensive economic and structural policy package”. The cash-strapped country has also sent officials from major energy producers Russia and Qatar to ensure cheap oil supplies.