By: Chandrashekar Bhat
SRI LANKA’S ongoing forex crisis may further hit its tourism industry as the UK and Canada have warned their travellers to be aware of the current economic situation in the island nation.
According to the latest advisory issued by the British government, the economic situation is deteriorating in Sri Lanka with shortages of necessities such as medicines, fuel and food because of a shortage of hard currency to pay for imports.
“There may be long queues at grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies. Local authorities may impose the rationing of electricity, resulting in power outages,” the advisory said.
Canada has also advised its citizens to keep supplies of food, water and fuel in hand in case of lengthy disruptions and to make sure to have a sufficient supply of medicines in hand as they may not be available and monitor local media for the latest developments.
The UK is Sri Lanka’s third-biggest source of inbound tourists behind Russia and India.
Tourism accounts for about five per cent of Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product (GDP), with Britain, India and China being the main markets.
The number of international tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka declined in March 2020 by 70.8 per cent in comparison to a year ago as the tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The advisories came after the Sri Lankan government recently imposed import restrictions on 367 items such as milk products, fruits and fish that have been dubbed “non-essential” as part of the bid to tackle the economic crisis triggered by forex shortages.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst foreign exchange crisis after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the nation’s earnings from tourism and remittances.
By December last year, the reserves had plummeted to just one month’s imports or a little over $1 billion (£770 million).
In recent months, the public has experienced a shortage of many essentials due to the foreign exchange crisis. Import restrictions to save dollars have threatened cooking gas and fuel supplies in addition to power cuts.
In January, India announced a $900m (£689.56m) loan to Sri Lanka to build up its depleted foreign reserves and for food imports, amid a shortage of almost all essential commodities in the country.
New Delhi also granted Colombo a $400m (£306.47) swap arrangement to boost its reserves.
Meanwhile, a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has arrived in Colombo for talks with the country’s top leadership after the government announced to float the local currency against the US dollar.