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Major newspapers in Sri Lanka stop publishing due to lack of paper

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Sri Lankan army soldiers guard a gas station in the capital Colombo. Photo: AFP

The South Asian nation of 22 million people is facing its worst economic downturn since independence in 1948 as its foreign exchange reserves have run out, AFP news agency reports.

The owner of the private Upali Newspapers said it had to stop publishing the English daily newspaper “The Island” and the local version “Divaina” because of a shortage of printing paper. These two newspapers are temporarily published online only.

After expenses skyrocketed by 30% in the past five months, several major national newspapers were also forced to cut pages. Last week, Sri Lankan authorities announced the postponement of exams for about 3 million students due to the inability to secure supplies of paper and ink.

Experts say that the shortage of foreign currency in the US dollar has caused this country to fall into an energy shortage, affecting all areas of life and driving prices up. In February, Sri Lanka recorded a record inflation of 17.5%, increasing for 5 consecutive months.

People have to wait in long lines at gas stations. Last week, at least four people died from waiting for gas for many hours.

Sri Lankan Energy Ministry officials say they have raised $42 million to pay for a shipment of diesel and jet fuel held at the port of Colombo over the past two weeks, after the state ran out of dollars to pay for it. pay.

In early March, the government lowered the rate of the rupee, and announced it would seek an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout to restructure external debt.

This year, Sri Lanka needs nearly 7 billion USD to pay off foreign debt while foreign exchange reserves are only 2.3 billion USD, down sharply from 7.5 billion USD at the time of the incumbent government came to power. in November 2019. The island is looking to borrow money from India, China and other countries to weather the currency crisis.

Sri Lanka fell into a deep economic crisis when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, reducing the remittances of foreign workers, as well as crippling the key tourism industry.

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