COLOMBO (REUTERS) - Sri Lanka will start official talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month, a Cabinet spokesman said on Tuesday (March 15), as the government seeks to stave off the island nation's worst economic crisis in years amid growing protests.
"Sri Lanka will begin formal talks with the IMF next month," spokesman Ramesh Pathirana told reporters, signalling an end to months of reluctance by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's government to seek assistance from the global lender.
Mr Pathirana said the government will firm up its plans on IMF assistance in the coming weeks as Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa prepares to hold discussions with the financial institution in Washington DC in mid-April.
Sri Lanka's foreign exchange reserves are down 70 per cent in the last two years to around US$2.31 billion (S$3.15 billion) and the country is struggling to pay for essential imports, including food and fuel.
A devaluation of its currency last week has further stoked already rocketing inflation and brought more distress to ordinary Sri Lankans, who have been dealing with rolling power cuts and fuel shortages.
In an effort to manage the rapidly deteriorating situation, Finance Minister Rajapaksa flew to New Delhi on Tuesday to sign a US$1 billion credit line to pay for essential imports.
But public anger in the island nation of 22 million people is growing. On Tuesday, Sri Lanka's main opposition party plans to hold a major protest march in Colombo, with supporters due to be bussed in from the countryside.
On social media, too, dissatisfaction against the government was evident, with many users using the #GotaGoHome hash tag to attack the president.