Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa acknowledges mistakes amid crisis
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made the admission while speaking to 17 new Cabinet ministers he appointed Monday as he and his powerful family seek to resolve a political crisis resulting from the country’s dire economic state.
Sri Lanka’s president acknowledged on Monday that he made mistakes that led to the country’s worst economic crisis in decades and pledged to correct them.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made the admission while speaking to 17 new Cabinet ministers he appointed Monday as he and his powerful family seek to resolve a political crisis resulting from the country’s dire economic state. “During the last two and a half years we have had vast challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the debt burden, and some mistakes on our part,” Rajapaksa said.
“They need to be rectified. We have to correct them and move forward. We need to regain the trust of the people.”
He said the government should have approached the International Monetary Fund early on for help in facing the impending debt crisis and should not have banned chemical fertiliser in an attempt to make Sri Lankan agriculture fully organic. Critics say the ban on imported fertiliser was aimed at conserving the country’s declining foreign exchange holdings and badly hurt farmers.
The government is also blamed for taking out large loans for infrastructure projects which have not brought in any money.
“Today, people are under immense pressure due to this economic crisis. I deeply regret this situation,” Rajapaksa said, adding that the pain, discomfort and anger displayed by people forced to wait in long lines to get essential items at high prices is justified.
The cabinet appointments follow weeks of protests over shortages of fuel and food and demands that Rajapaksa, his politically powerful family and his government resign.
The president and and his elder brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa remain in office, but the embattled leader dropped two of his brothers -eldest sibling Chamal and younger brother Basil, the former finance minister - and a nephew from his cabinet. Mahinda’s eldest son Namal, who ran the sports ministry and had been touted as a future leader, was also dropped.
Many senior politicians and those facing corruption allegations were excluded from the new cabinet in line with calls for a younger administration.
Moody’s cuts rating
Sri Lanka is barrelling toward a “series of defaults” as it stops paying its foreign debts, Moody’s Investors Service warned in a downgrade of the country’s credit rating.
The first default could come quite soon. The island nation was meant to pay about $78 million in interest to its bondholders on Monday -- until, of course, the government said last week it would halt foreign debt service to preserve cash for food and fuel imports. That has led rating companies to slash Sri Lanka further into junk, with Moody’s on Monday lowering its score to Ca from Caa2.