Lanka declares economic emergency as food prices soar


The Sri Lankan rupee has fallen by 7.5 per cent against the US dollar this year. The wide-ranging emergency measures came into effect on Tuesday….reports Asian Lite News

Sri Lanka has declared an economic emergency, after a steep fall in the value of the South Asian country’s currency caused a spike in food prices.

Authorities say they will take control of the supply of basic food items, including rice and sugar, and set prices in an attempt to control rising inflation, the BBC reported.

The Sri Lankan rupee has fallen by 7.5 per cent against the US dollar this year. The wide-ranging emergency measures came into effect on Tuesday.

A former army general has been appointed by the government as the commissioner of essential services, with the power to seize stocks held by traders and retailers.

“The authorised officers will be able to take steps to provide essential food items at a concessionary rate to the public by purchasing stocks of essential food items,” the president of the island nation, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said in a statement.

“These items will be provided at government guaranteed prices or based on the customs value on imported goods to prevent market irregularities,” the statement added.

The announcement came after a surge in the cost of basic foodstuffs such as sugar, onions and potatoes, BBC reported.

There have also been long queues outside shops due to shortages of other goods including milk powder, kerosene and cooking gas.

The Country’s Department of Census and Statistics said the increase in the foreign exchange rate was one of the reasons behind rising prices of many essential items over the last year.

Month-on-month inflation rose to 6 per cent in August, mainly due to high food prices, the department said.

The country, which is a net importer of food and other commodities, is witnessing a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths which has hit tourism, one of the country’s main foreign currency earners, the report said.

Partly as a result of the slump in tourist numbers, Sri Lanka’s economy shrank by a record 3.6 per cent last year.

In March last year, the government imposed an import ban on vehicles and other items as it tried to stem the outflow of foreign currencies.

New Covid variant

Sri Lankan authorities have said that the country’s health system was on alert over a new Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa, local media reported.

Quoting local health officials, the media reported that the mutation had not been detected in Sri Lanka but the country’s health system was on alert as these mutations were fast spreading globally, reports Xinhua news agency.

Professor Chandima Jeewandara of Sri Jayewardenepura University’s Immunology and Molecular Medicine Department said the variant detected in South Africa was the most mutated coronavirus so far and it was normal for new mutations to emerge in a pandemic.

“It may not have any serious effect on how the virus functions,” Jeewandara said.

According to a study, the C.1.2 variant first detected in South Africa has since been found countries such as the UK, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

Scientists are studying whether the C.1.2 variant is more dangerous than the currently dominant Delta variant.

Sri Lanka is facing a rapid rise in Covid-19 infections with the spread of the Delta variant, which has infected nearly 60,000 people in recent weeks.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a large-scale vaccination program with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructing authorities to complete inoculating all citizens above the age of 30 with the first doses by September.

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