Sri Lankan president asks opposition to join unity government amid economic crisis

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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday called for a unity government to tackle the country’s economic crisis, as cabinet ministers and the central bank governor offered to resign and stock trading stalled. halted twice due to falling stock prices.

The indebted country is struggling to pay for imports of fuel and other goods due to a currency crisis, leading to hours-long power cuts and a shortage of basic necessities.

Widespread street protests continued despite a weekend curfew.

“Considering that this is a national need, now is the time to work together for the benefit of all citizens and future generations,” the Rajapaksa media office said in a statement.

“The President invites all political parties represented in parliament to come together to accept ministerial portfolios in order to find solutions to this national crisis.”

Central Bank of Sri Lanka Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said he had also offered to resign.

“In the context of the resignation of all cabinet ministers, I have today tendered my resignation as Governor,” he said on Twitter.

The developments come after Rajapaksa declared a state of emergency on Friday, following protests over the economic hardships facing the country’s people.

The Colombo Stock Exchange suspended trading twice on Monday morning due to a sharp decline in the benchmark stock price.

Traffic resumed on the streets of the country’s main city, Colombo, on Monday, but sporadic and peaceful protests were reported across the country.

The island nation of 22 million, off the southern tip of India, is also struggling with runaway inflation after the government sharply devalued its currency last month ahead of talks with the International Monetary Fund to a loan program.

The country’s expenditure has exceeded its income under successive governments while its production of tradable goods and services has been insufficient. The twin deficits have been severely exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic which has crippled its economic mainstay, the tourism industry.

(Reuters)

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