Sri Lanka is only a test case and many other countries will have to face political turbulence due to the global hunger and famine resulting from the Ukraine war, breakdown of supply chain and the impact of COVID-19, acting President Ranil Wickremesighe said.
He, however, pointed out that the economies of those countries are not as bad as ours.
He was participating in an international panel discussion focussed on “Preventing Global Hunger and Famine” last Thursday. It was organized by the Prime Minister’s Office and was joined by UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid along with other international delegates.
Noting that the G7 countries have come up with a ‘Global Alliance for Food Security’ together with the World Bank, acting President said Sri Lanka has been pledged US$ 14 million by it to obtain food and strengthen agricultural productivity.
He urged the western countries to rethink the sanctions against Russia as those have hampered the food distribution and thereby driven the food prices up.
“Sanctions will not bring Russia to its knees, but will bring third world countries to their knees. While we are given US$ 14 million to fight hunger, about US$ 100 billion are spent on the Ukraine war by all parties that are supplying Ukraine. Russia too has a responsibility to call a ceasefire, and not to put the world through further suffering. Ukraine must be ready for discussions sans pre-conditions,” Wickremesinghe said.
He pointed out that Sri Lanka’s economy has been contracting, and its negative economic growth would be about -6 percent this year. “We see the collapse of tourism and small and medium sector entrepreneurs. Many people have lost jobs. There is widespread hunger. We also have a fuel shortage. All these resulted in the political turbulence in Sri Lanka as witnessed in the past few days,” he explained.
He added many other countries would face similar political turbulence next year, adding that asking the people to tighten their belts alone would not do and that out of the box thinking is necessary to handle the situation.
“Never before in modern history have we faced a famine of this scale. At the moment, about 300 million people are affected worldwide and it will even exceed 400 million. About 50 million people will be facing serious famine. A global crisis and an internal crisis have come together and brought us to a level where 6 million to 7.5 million people are facing malnutrition in Sri Lanka,” he noted.
“The decision to ban chemical fertilizer has cost us heavily. Due to the drop of paddy harvest, one third of our requirement has to be obtained from abroad at a time we have faced a foreign exchange scarcity. The next cultivation season begins in September-October. If we can provide fertilizer and seeds for it, we can be self-sufficient in rice and get the agricultural economy working. We need US$ 600 million to buy fertilizer for the ‘Maha’ Season, but currently we only have US$ 300 million,” he remarked.