Sri Lanka tells officials to work from home amid fuel shortage


Sri Lanka’s government is ordering public sector workers to work from home for two weeks as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.

The Sri Lankan government has ordered public sector workers to work from home for two weeks amid a severe fuel shortage as the island grapples with its worst financial turmoil in seven decades.

With existing supplies of fuel expected to run out within days, Sri Lanka is looking for foreign exchange to pay for much-needed imports of petrol and diesel. A combination of government mismanagement and the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the country into its deepest economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.

The Ministry of Public Administration and the Interior announced Friday the work-from-home assignment for all but the most essential employees.

“Taking into account the severe restrictions on fuel supply, the weak public transport system and the difficulty of using private vehicles, this circular allows the minimum staff to report to work from Monday,” the ministry said.

Of the roughly one million government employees, those who provide essential services such as healthcare will continue to report to their offices, the circular said.

The Ministry of Education also said all schools have been asked to remain closed for two weeks from Monday and provide online education if students and teachers have access to electricity.

Earlier this week, the government also approved a four-day work week for public sector workers to help them cope with a chronic fuel shortage and encourage them to grow food.

Winding rows of vehicles stretching for several miles have formed at many gas stations across the country this week, forcing some people to wait more than 10 hours for fuel.

The country is also facing record high inflation and prolonged blackouts, all of which have contributed to months of protests — sometimes violent — calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign.

Sri Lanka is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package with a delegation expected in Colombo on Monday.

The United Nations has put in place a plan to raise $47 million to provide aid over the next four months to 1.7 million Sri Lankans hardest hit by the crisis.

As many as 5 million Sri Lankans could be directly affected by food shortages in the coming months, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office said in a statement on Friday.

The World Food Program (WFP) said it began handing out food stamps on Thursday to about 2,000 pregnant women in Colombo’s “deprived” areas as part of “life-saving aid”.

The WFP is trying to raise $60 million for food aid between June and December.

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