COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka is experiencing hour-long power outages every day as fuel shortages mean it can’t run turbines and the government has little foreign currency to pay for oil imports.
The country has no electricity 7 1/2 hours a day, forcing children to study under homemade kerosene lamps, fishermen to limit fishing, and shops and industries to limit production and business.
Government ministers have admitted they are struggling to pay ships docked in Colombo port before offloading their fuel stocks. Dry weather has also limited hydroelectric power production in shrinking reservoirs.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa last week sacked Udaya Gammanpila as energy minister after speaking publicly about the scale of the crisis and criticizing the authorities for not prioritizing imports.
Vehicles and people with containers stand in queues in front of gas stations, some of which can be kilometers long. Passenger buses and trucks transporting goods cannot operate according to their normal routine. The limited number of foreign tourists visiting the country are confined to their hotels and unable to travel. Some spend time in the dark.
Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves have shrunk as the tourism sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and exports have slumped. The country also has billions of dollars in foreign debt to pay for infrastructure projects that don’t bring in any money.
This year’s loan repayment obligations alone cost nearly $7 billion.