New Sri Lanka government to sell national airline

Sri Lanka’s new government plans to sell its national airline to stem losses, part of efforts to stabilize the nation’s finances even as authorities are forced to print money to pay government salaries.

The new administration plans to privatize Sri Lankan Airlines, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a televised address to the nation . The carrier lost 45 billion rupees ($124 million) in the year ending March 2021, he said just days before the nation is set to formally default on foreign debt.

“It should not be that this loss has to be borne by the poorest of the poor who have not set foot in an aircraft,” Wickremesinghe said.

Wickremesinghe — less than a week into the job — said he was forced to print money to pay salaries, which will pressure the nation’s currency. The nation has only one day’s stock of gasoline and the government is working to obtain dollars in the open market to pay for three ships with crude oil and furnace oil that have been anchored in Sri Lankan waters, Wickremesinghe said.

“The next couple of months will be the most difficult ones of our lives,” Wickremesinghe said. “We must immediately establish a national assembly or political body with the participation of all political parties to find solutions for the present crisis.”

In 2010, the government in Colombo bought back a stake in Sri Lankan Airlines from Dubai’s Emirates. The national carrier, which has a fleet of 25 Airbus SE planes, flies to destinations in Europe, the Middle East as well as South and Southeast Asia, according to FlightRadar24. (Source HT)

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