July 04 (BBC) Sri Lanka’s energy minister has issued a stark warning over the country’s fuel stocks as it faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years.
On Sunday, Kanchana Wijesekera said the nation only had enough petrol left for less than a day under regular demand.
He also said its next petrol shipment was not due for more than two weeks.
Last week, Sri Lanka suspended sales of petrol and diesel for non-essential vehicles as it struggles to pay for imports like fuel, food and medicines.
Mr Wijesekera told reporters that the country had 12,774 tonnes of diesel and 4,061 tonnes of petrol left in its reserves.
"The next petrol shipment is expected between the 22nd and 23rd [of July]," he added.
A shipment of diesel is expected to arrive at the weekend, however Mr Wijesekera warned that the country does not have enough money to pay for planned fuel and crude oil imports.
He said Sri Lanka’s central bank could only supply $125m for fuel purchases, far less than the $587m needed for its scheduled shipments.
Mr Wijesekera added that the country owed $800m to seven suppliers for purchases it made earlier this year.
Last week Sri Lanka banned sales of fuel for private vehicles for two week.
Experts believe it is the first country to take the drastic step of halting sales of petrol to ordinary people since the 1970s oil crisis, when 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 currency to pay for imports of essential goods.
Acute shortages of fuel, food and medicines have helped to push up the cost of living to record highs in the country, where many people rely on motor vehicles for their livelihoods. It’s also sparked violent street protests.
The government blames the Covid pandemic, which affected Sri Lanka’s tourist trade - one of its biggest foreign currency earners. However, many experts say economic mismanagement is to blame.
In May the country failed to make a payment on its foreign debt for the first time in its history.