Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed as Minister of Finance, Economic Stability and National Policies by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday.
The five-time Prime Minister was re-appointed to the job on May 12 following the political circus precipitated by the economic crisis in the island’s history. He replaced Mahinda Rajapaksa who resigned to make way to appoint an all-party interim government to handle the economic crisis. Wickremesinghe’s office said during the two weeks he had been at the helm. He re-established the island’s foreign relations, took steps for constitutional reform with the draft of the 21 amendments to the constitution, ensured fuel supplies and has been making preparations for an interim budget.
Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy in mid-April saying it was unable to meet its international debt payments this year. Sri Lanka has suspended repayment of about USD 7 billion in foreign loans due this year out of USD 25 billion to be repaid by 2026.
The country’s total foreign debt is USD 51 billion. The island nation however is in need of USD 4-5 billion bridging finance to arrest the crisis where shortages of essentials had led to street rioting. President Rajapaksa on May 20 expanded the Cabinet to include nine Ministers, but did not appoint a Finance Minister. Ministers of a few portfolios including education, ports and shipping, health, justice, trade were sworn in.
For the second time, on May 23, Rajapaksa expanded the Cabinet by inducting eight more Ministers but even this time he did not appoint a Finance Minister. (The Hindu and Foreign Media)