From a tourist paradise, Sri Lanka has been ravaged by terrorism and Covid-19, has lost a vital source of income, and has gradually slipped into a crisis of debt default.
Sri Lanka is an island country in the Indian Ocean with long sandy beaches and clear and warm waters. The country also has beautiful unspoiled forests. Fascinating cuisine, many UNESCO-recognized historic sites and resorts have created a tourist destination for this South Asian country.
Sri Lanka Named to Lonely Planet’s 2019 Best Destinations list. This teardrop-shaped island is regarded by many as a tourist paradise.
The island nation of 21.9 million is separated from India by a shallow strait about 20 kilometers wide at its narrowest point. 70% of Sri Lanka’s population is Buddhist, mainly Sinhalese. About 12% are Hindu, mostly Tamils living in the north and northeast of the island.
Strategically located on international maritime trade routes, the island was ruled by Portuguese and Dutch colonists before becoming a British colony in 1815 called Ceylon.
After more than 130 years of British rule, the island nation gained independence in 1948 and became a republic in 1972, taking the name Sri Lanka. But peace has yet to come to this country.
In 1972, Tamil insurgents waged an armed struggle that sparked a 37-year civil war that claimed some 100,000 lives. Tamil Tiger suicide bombers killed former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and Sri Lankan President Ranasingh Premadasa in 1993.
The Sri Lankan government launched a full-scale offensive in 2009, killing the leader of the Tamil Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran. However, the movement was criticized when the army was accused of killing at least 40,000 Tamils.
The current Sri Lankan president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, served as a senior defense official when the rebels were defeated under his brother, current prime minister and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.
After peace is restored, tourism will become a key industry in Sri Lanka, accounting for 12% of GDP and the country’s fifth-largest source of foreign exchange. During the 2009-2021 period, the country’s tourism receipts averaged $178 million per year, peaking at $475 million in December 2018.
But in April 2019, as Sri Lanka prepared to celebrate the end of a decade of civil war, the capital Colombo was hit by fresh terror attacks over Easter.
On April 21, 2019, a series of suicide bombings targeting three crowded churches and three luxury hotels killed 279 people, including at least 45 foreigners, and injured more than 500. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Easter bombing destroyed the island’s vital tourism industry. after, Coronavirus disease The outbreak has exacerbated the situation and depleted the country’s largest source of foreign exchange earnings.
Sri Lanka had expected to rely on tourism revenue to pay off its foreign debt, which it has borrowed about $51 billion over the years. China, Japan, India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are the island nation’s largest creditors.
With tourism ravaged by terrorism and the pandemic, Sri Lanka’s foreign exchange reserves have dwindled, forcing the government to impose strong currency restrictions and ban the import of many goods. Sri Lanka mainly uses this foreign exchange reserve to repay its foreign debt.
However, with a lack of foreign exchange to import essential goods, Sri Lanka faces food and fuel shortages, coupled with prolonged power outages. This led many protesters to take to the streets, calling for President Rajapaksa to step down.
In February, Sri Lanka announced that it has foreign exchange reserves of $2.31 billion, but has to repay about $4 billion in debt this year alone. It got worse when President Rajapaksa admitted the country had a $10 billion trade deficit.
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Finance announced on April 12 default. Colombo suggested that creditors, including governments that borrowed money from South Asian countries, could accrue unpaid interest on Sri Lanka’s loans due that afternoon, or choose to call them back. Principal Loan in Sri Lankan Rupee.
Colombo resident Shathurshan Jayantharaj, 25, was unable to continue his delivery business as fuel supplies ran out. He speaks out against what he calls government incompetence almost every day.
“We should have gained a lot, but now we’ve lost everything. The leaders of the country don’t know what they’re doing and keep dragging us down,” he said.
Cheongdam (according to AFP)