Warnings of unrest in Sri Lanka ahead of IMF bailout talks

STORY: Long queues of vehicles stretching kilometers outside petrol stations have become a common sight in Sri Lanka recently. In the capital Colombo, tuk tuk driver Mohamed Rahuman had been in line since the evening before when he described to Reuters on Saturday how difficult life had become. "I can't earn any money, can't go home and can’t sleep. Even if I get petrol, I can't do my job. I will have to get some sleep," he said.

Sri Lanka is scrambling to find foreign exchange to pay for desperately needed fuel imports, and its existing stock of petrol and diesel is projected to run out in a matter of days. Government officials are hoping to finalise a bailout agreement during the IMF team's visit, but Dhananath Fernando of think tank Advocata Institute warned not to expect immediate solutions.

“The IMF has already said they are mainly considering the debt restructuring process to provide the assistance... In my view it will be a slightly slow process for us to get IMF money,” he said, adding that if the current situation continues, "it is highly likely that there will be social unrest."

On Friday, the island nation ordered public sector employees to work from home for two weeks due to the fuel shortage, after earlier in the week approving a four-day work week for public sector workers.

As many as 5 million Sri Lankans could be directly impacted by food shortages in the coming months, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's office said in a statement on Friday.

The United Nations has outlined a plan to raise $47 million to provide assistance to 1.7 million Sri Lankans worst hit by the crisis over the next four months.

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