Sri Lankan Debt Crisis Causes Paper Shortages, Nation Forced to Cancel School Exams
20:02 GMT 21.03.2022 (Updated: 20:04 GMT 21.03.2022)
Sri Lanka has canceled school exams for two thirds of its students after running out of paper and ink.
The south Asian nation is in the midst of its worst financial crisis since gaining independence in 1948. Shortages of food, medicine and fuel have affected the 22 million residents of Sri Lanka and now two thirds of the country’s 4.5 million students may be unable to take tests to determine if they can move onto the next grade. The Department of Education of the Western Province stated it was unable to import paper and ink due to a lack of cash.
Tests have been postponed indefinitely.
Sri Lanka has seen its foreign currency reserves fall more than 70% over the past two years. It currently has $2.36 billion in reserves while $4 billion in debt payments are due by the end of this year.
Protests gripped Sri Lanka’s capital city of Colombo earlier this month. Protesters and members of Sri Lanka’s opposition party have called on the government to step down due to their bungling of the debt crisis.
Tax cuts in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic decimating the tourism and remittance industries have been cited as the largest causes of the crisis. Opposition party member Harsha de Silva also blamed the country’s “overnight” ban on chemical fertilizers, which led to protests from farmers. The ban has been reversed.
The government has announced that it will seek a bailout from the IMF. It also recently secured a $1 billion line of credit from India to bring in food, fuel and pharmaceuticals to the cash-strapped country.
Sri Lankan finance minister Basil Rajapaksa in December 2021 assured parliament that the government would not default on its loans or ask for an IMF bailout.