Despair in Sri Lanka: Four  day week against the food crisis

Despair in Sri Lanka: Four day week against the food crisis

The government office has already approved a proposal that about a million civil servants be given furloughs every Friday for the next three months. Among other things, because the lack of fuel makes commuting difficult – but also to avoid a food crisis and encourage them to farm.

“It seems appropriate to give government officials a day off work so that they can engage in agricultural activities in their backyards or elsewhere to address anticipated food shortages,” the Government Information Department wrote on its website at Tuesday. Salary should not be reduced during this period.

The shorter week will also benefit workers who have been hit by power outages and traffic disruptions caused by food and gas shortages, the government hopes. Workers in hospitals and ports, as well as in energy and water supply who work in the area of ​​“essential services” are exempt from the four-day week.

Women work in a rice field in Sri Lanka

Reuters Government officials are encouraged to grow food one day a week

Severe economic crisis follows famine

Above all, the drastic lack of foreign currency poses a supply challenge for Sri Lanka. Essential fuel, food and medicine imports can no longer be paid for. Currency devaluation, rising commodity prices around the world and a ban on chemical fertilizers, which has since been lifted, pushed food inflation to 57% in April.

Sri Lanka had already been on a good development path for ten years and did not need humanitarian assistance from the UN. According to the United Nations, the worst economic crisis in Sri Lanka since independence in 1948 is now exacerbating the looming famine. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has already published an urgent international appeal and asked for donations worth 47 million dollars (about 44 million euros).

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Sri Lanka on the edge of the abyss

After the ban on imports of chemical fertilizers last year, only half the amount could be harvested as before, said a representative of the United Nations Agriculture Organization (FAO), who was connected via video from Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. According to the UN, high world grain market prices, which have risen sharply as a result of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, are also aggravating the situation.

Little own land and fertilizers

According to CNN reports, government critics doubt the introduction of a four-day week will really change anything about the catastrophic situation, as most public servants live far from Colombo and travel by public transport. Also, very few people own land on which to grow food.

While the fertilizer import ban has been revised, a group of agricultural experts also believes that most fertilizers will arrive too late for the next crop cycle. It is feared that the nutritional needs of the main crops, rice, tea and maize, will not be met in the next season. As early as last month, the government appealed to Sri Lankan farmers to plant more rice as there were already signs of a decline in production.

International help in trading

As yet another package of measures, the Sri Lankan government wants to encourage public sector workers to work abroad and send money home. In return, they receive unpaid leave of up to five years. A rescue package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is being negotiated and a delegation is due to be sent to Colombo next week, reports the BBC.

The US also announced its support. “In these difficult economic and political times, the US stands ready to work with Sri Lanka, in close coordination with the International Monetary Fund and the international community,” tweeted Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a phone call with Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister. Lanka, Ranil Wickremesinghe. .

Two men pull a cart loaded with bags of groceries in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Reuters Food prices in Sri Lanka rose 46.6% in April from a year earlier

5.7 million people need help

According to UN estimates, around 5.7 million people in Sri Lanka are in urgent need of assistance – that’s a good quarter of the population. 17% of children under five are too small for their age, said a representative of the World Food Program (WFP). The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, reported that 70% of families have already reduced the amount of food they eat.

Out of desperation, families are sending children they can no longer feed to orphanages, but living conditions are also precarious, said a UNICEF official in Colombo. More than 10,000 children already live in these homes. The government says it needs at least $5 billion over the next six months to maintain a basic standard of living.

“It is not enough to just create economic stability, we have to restructure the entire economy,” announced Wickremesinghe – the prime minister is also responsible for finance – recently in parliament. In mid-April, Sri Lanka declared itself insolvent. Experts mainly blame the crisis for the crisis on the wrong decisions of previous governments. Despite vehement calls for his resignation, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa confirmed last week that he intends to complete the remaining two years of his term.