Sri Lanka, still navigating its way out of a political crisis, is also facing its most serious economic crisis since it gained independence after the Second World War. According to the World Food Program, some 6.3 million people in Sri Lanka face food insecurity.
“Sri Lanka's current economic hardships ... have many sources,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power during her mid-September visit there. “The accumulation over many years of mountains of unsustainable debt, the tourism sector devastated by COVID-19, and before that, the Easter Sunday bombings, corruption, and self-dealing.”
Since 2017, Sri Lanka’s farmers have seen their crop yields diminish by about half. This is partly due to drought, but also because of a severe shortage of fertilizer due to an acute scarcity of dollars for imports and policy decisions made by the previous government.
To help alleviate this problem, Administrator Power announced that, subject to congressional approval, the United States will provide forty million dollars to bring fertilizer to as many as one million farmers in time for the new planting season. This crucial assistance will significantly boost harvest production and yields.
But until these crops can be harvested, millions of Sri Lankans still need to eat. So, the United States will provide an additional twenty million dollars for humanitarian assistance to Sri Lankans suffering hunger and malnutrition. “With these new announcements, the United States has now committed nearly 240 million dollars since June of this year to meet the urgent needs of Sri Lankans,” said Administrator Power.
“But assistance alone will not put an end to this country's woes,” she warned. “Political reforms and political accountability must go hand in hand with the economic reforms and economic accountability. Sri Lanka's vibrant civil society must have the space that they need, to raise their voices and hold the government accountable.” She added that as Sri Lanka begins to emerge from its economic crisis, the United States will help in the restructuring of the country's crippling debt. However, all of Sri Lanka's creditors must cooperate in this process openly and on comparable terms with each other.
“For over 70 years, the United States has invested in Sri Lanka to extend peace and prosperity to the people of this country, contributing, in fact, more than two billion dollars in assistance over the years. Today's support builds on that legacy as the American people work to assist the Sri Lankan people in their effort, in your effort, to move past this very, very difficult chapter.”