COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: As it struggles with its worst financial crisis in decades, Sri Lanka’s government has approved a four-day work week for public sector workers, to enable them to plant gardens to grow food and help them cope with a chronic fuel shortage.
Due to a severe foreign exchange shortage, the country is struggling to pay for imports of essential fuel, food and medicine.
This week, the Sri Lankan cabinet approved a proposal for public sector workers to be given Fridays off for the next three months, as the fuel shortage made commuting difficult and to encourage workers to plant gardens.
In a statement, the government information office said, “It seems appropriate to grant government officials leave of one working day to engage in agricultural activities in their backyards or elsewhere as a solution to the food shortage that is expected.”
Last week, the United Nations warned of a looming humanitarian crisis, adding that it plans to provide $47 million to help more than one million vulnerable people.
In April, Sri Lanka’s currency depreciation, rising global commodity prices and a now-reversed policy to ban chemical fertilizers pushed food prices up by 57 percent.
The government is in talks for a bailout package with the International Monetary Fund, with a delegation expected to visit Colombo on 20th June.
In addition, after a phone call with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Twitter, “During these economically and politically challenging times, the U.S. stands ready to work with Sri Lanka, in close coordination with the International Monetary Fund and the international community.”
Sri Lanka needed at least $5 billion to meet essential imports for the rest of the year, Wickremesinghe said.