Sri Lanka’s Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera has issued a stern warning about the country’s fuel reserves, as the country faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years.
On Sunday, Wijesekera told reporters that the country has 12,774 tonnes of diesel and 4,061 tonnes of petrol left.
The next petrol shipment is expected between 22 and 23 (of July), he said.
A shipment of diesel is expected over the weekend, although Wijecekera 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 $125 million for fuel purchases, far less than the $587 million needed for scheduled shipments.
Wijesekera said the country owed $800 million to seven suppliers for purchases made earlier this year.
The new warning comes after Sri Lanka last week suspended sales of petrol and diesel for non-essential vehicles as it struggles to pay for imports such as fuel, food and medicines, the BBC reported.
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 country 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.
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Also last week, an International Monetary Fund team concluded a new round of talks with Sri Lanka on a $3 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 in an effort to secure cheap oil supplies.