Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was among the three women Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe thanked on International Women’s Day for providing much-needed financial aid to the debt-ridden island nation during its economic crisis.
Addressing a state function in Colombo to mark the occasion on Wednesday (March 8), Wickremesinghe admitted that while several people had helped Sri Lanka, three women were worth a special mention.
“Between the Women’s Day of last year and this year, this country underwent a big transformation. The first reason was the collapse of our economy. We have to look back at that period; we see three women who came to our assistance,” he said.
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“I want to make a special mention of them. The foremost of them is Nirmala Sitharaman, the finance minister of India. It was she who discussed with the prime minister and the Cabinet and made the decision to lend $3 billion to us in April. That was after we had declared our bankruptcy,” said Wickremesinghe.
Sri Lanka’s lifeline
He said it was “a very brave decision” to lend money to a bankrupt country. “We have to thank her in the first place. I don’t have to tell you how bad we would have been without that $3 billion,” he added.
The Sri Lankan president was referring to the Indian credit lines and loans provided in early 2022 to help the crisis-hit Sri Lanka recover from the economic crisis. The Indian assistance worth near $4 billion was Sri Lanka’s lifeline when the island was suffering with long queues for essentials and fuel.
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Wickremesinghe also praised US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgiva, saying, “Without those three women leaders, we would have been in serious trouble.”
IMF hails Sri Lanka progress
The IMF on Tuesday welcomed the progress made by Sri Lanka in taking some decisive policy actions to address its economic woes and obtaining financing assurances from all its major creditors, including China, India, and the Paris Club.
“Look forward to presenting for approval Sri Lanka’s IMF-supported programme to our Executive Board on March 20,” Georgieva said.
Sri Lanka was hit by an unprecedented financial crisis in 2022, the worst since its independence from Britain in 1948, due to a severe paucity of foreign exchange reserves, sparking political turmoil in the country, which led to the ouster of the all-powerful Rajapaksa family.
(With agency inputs)