The Central Bank of Sri Lanka reduced the maximum amount of foreign currency a person can have in his possession from USD 15,000 to USD 10,000 on Thursday, citing the forex crisis, which has resulted in limited imports and no gasoline in filling stations in the country facing its worst economic crisis. According to Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, under the Foreign Exchange Act, everyone who can possess foreign money is limited to a maximum of USD 15,000 in value. The CBSL Governor stated that the apex bank is working to reduce it to USD 10,000, but that even with that amount, verification of how the person got into possession of the necessary monies must be supplied.
It has led to limited imports with no gasoline in filling stations. Other fuel, cooking gas, medicine and foods are in short supply, forcing people to stay in long lines to buy the limited stocks. Amid the fuel crisis, Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that posts shared on MPs being given subsidized fuel rates are false. “No MP from either side or anyone has been given subsidized rates than the current market prices given to the public,” he tweeted.
Accordingly, a grace period of two weeks will be given to current holders to deposit this money either in their foreign currency accounts in the banking system or surrender that money and convert them to rupees and keep them in rupees, he added. Sri Lanka, near bankruptcy, has suspended up to USD 7 billion of foreign loan payments due to be repaid this year because of a foreign currency crisis. The country must repay USD 25 billion as foreign debt by 2026 out of a total of USD 51 billion.
Further, the Minister said he instructed the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to investigate the rates displayed in the dispenser at the police garage and will make a statement in Parliament. “No one will be extended privileges on fuel stations other than ambulance essential services,” he further tweeted. In his statement to Parliament, the Minister said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation has never sold fuel to any MPs at a price less than the market rates, on any occasion.
The minister also said that filling stations are only permitted to sell fuel subject to the present conditions, which is a maximum of Rs. 8,000, except for vehicles engaged in transportation services. “The rate of Rs. 121 is what existed several years ago,” he told Parliament, adding that the said filling station was instructed to stop selling fuel upon payment by cash.Further, Energy Minister Wijesekera said an investigation will be carried out for not updating the said gasoline pump or the dispenser. Sri Lankan authorities have decided to suspend the issuing of fuel from the Narahenpita Police Transport Division for selected vehicles following public outcry. The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation on Thursday said that it stopped selling fuel to parliamentarians from the Narahenpita Police Transport Division’s filling station after reports emerged that fuel was being sold at subsidized rates.
“You (Speaker) has requested the Inspector General of Police over the possibility of providing fuel for MPs to visit Parliament during the days that Parliament convenes,” he told Parliament. He said following the Speaker’s request to the Inspector General of Police, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation has made it clear to sell Petrol for Rs. 334.19, Auto Diesel for Rs. 289.13, upon payment made by cash.
“We do not allow to sell fuel at subsidized rates at any filling station. We cannot imagine selling fuel at a loss,” said Attorney-at-Law Smith Wijesinghe, the Chairman of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation adding that the supply of fuel from the filling station was suspended. Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardana had requested the Inspector General of Police to sell fuel from the Narahenpita Police Transport Division to parliamentarians on Wednesday. SJB MP Thalatha Athukorala speaking in Parliament on Wednesday also noted that the Inspector General of Police had been instructed by the government to provide fuel to all the Members of Parliament.
“This decision has put us in danger,” she pointed out, noting that it is unfair for MPs to be given special treatment for fuel while the people in the country are forced to wait in line for hours for fuel. Sri Lanka Police in a statement on Thursday morning said that instructions were given to provide fuel upon payment of cash for the vehicles that belong to Members of Parliament that enter the Narahenpita Police Transport Division for fuel. Sri Lanka Police tightened security at the premises as authorities took measures to rectify the dispenser, as the Energy Minister revealed in Parliament that the said dispenser was not updated in years. Sri Lankans have been protesting for more than a month demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, holding him responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis in recent memory.
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