By R. Pieris, Colombo
At the beginning of 2022, Sri Lanka was like any other nation in the South Asia region: inflation rates were higher than experts would like them to be, but stable politically, socially and economically. Our paradise of an island had many issues over the years, but people loved living here, after all, it is our home. But since April, all of Sri Lanka’s past mistakes, the wrong decisions, the ill-timed decisions, corruption of leaders, impact post COVID hit in full force as our nation uses the last of its foreign reserves which doesn’t even cover the cost of essential goods.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst ever economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, and except for maybe 2-3% of our population, everyone suffers the consequences of fuel shortages, gas shortages, the prices of goods rising at least once a week, food shortages, electricity cuts, medicine shortages etc.
The lack of finances to purchase imports directly results in a massive shortage of food, and also the prices increase due increases in fuel costs, electricity costs etc. Many people and many families have resorted to having two meals a day now, and some to one. Increasing number of patients dying because they could not find fuel, diesel or petrol or a vehicle with plenty fuel to get the patient to hospitals, especially newborns. Friends and relatives look for particular meds for someone they know, and by the time they get it, the patient has already passed away.
In terms of food in particular, Sri Lanka is forecasted to face a huge crisis because the harvest of the last season has dropped dramatically because of the infamous fertilizer mess up, but even at present, a lot of families more than half of the community struggle to make ends meet and cannot imagine prices going higher than this.
Students, especially most university students, struggle financially as they contemplate giving up their studies to provide for their family. They are faced with a harsh life choice since their daily budget has gone up more than three times the usual amount which they used to pay and hence they tend to cut down costs by cutting down meals etc. Organizations have turned to benefactors and sponsors to ask for money to give in scholarships to sustain students as much as they could.
Just yesterday, a mother who stole a breadfruit from a tree and sold half to get half a kilo of rice for her child, was arrested. Crime, robberies, suicide and emotional distress rates have also gone up, as people are voicing their displeasure and discomfort in different forms as many of us feel that we’ve been robbed: of our futures, of having a comfortable and affordable life.
Through my own personal experience, food prices are 3 or more times above what it used to be at the beginning of this year, and bus fares are 6 times more than what they were back then. Most of the food items in stores are either empty or quite hefty in price. Communities in Sri Lanka are slowly going hungry and also will be facing long term consequences health wise for eating unbalanced diets resulting in malnutrition, and by eating less number of meals (which is quite common now) will result in starvation.
However, we as Sri Lankans between hardships will always stand strong, and we truly appreciate the genuine help we receive as a nation from the international community. This crisis has taught us to be more sensitive to everyone around us, to recognize their needs, even the unspoken ones. May Sri Lanka get to stand up strong on her feet again soon, and may God bless Lanka with his divine providence.