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President-elect of Sri Lanka seeks coalition government to revive economy

COLOMBO: Ranil Wickremesinghe, the newly elected president of Sri Lanka, has formally asked lawmakers to join an all-party unity government that will enact difficult changes in order to rescue the country’s failing economy.

Wickremesinghe assumed power earlier this month after his predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to leave the country and resign due to public outrage over the island nation’s greatest economic crisis.

Wickremesinghe discussed his ideas at a meeting with the powerful monks of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, one of Buddhism’s holiest sites, on Saturday.

In his first meeting with the influential Buddhist clergy since assuming office, Wickremesinghe was quoted as saying, “As the president, I intend to start a new journey.”

“I would like to build an all-party government and bring together all the parties to embark on that road.”In a letter to every MP, he has pleaded with them to join a unity government.

After Mahinda Rajapaksa, the senior Rajapaksa brother, resigned and no one else shown interest in the position, Wickremesinghe, a former opposition MP, assumed the position of premier for a sixth time in May.

Following Gotabaya’s departure on July 9 when tens of thousands of demonstrators enraged by the economic crisis stormed the presidential palace, Wickremesinghe was elected president.

He escaped to Singapore, where he later announced his resignation five days later. Wickremesinghe then took over as acting president and was later elected by parliament to officially assume the presidency.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million citizens have faced months of lengthy blackouts, record inflation and shortages of food, fuel and medicines.

The nation hasn’t had enough foreign currency to pay for even the most basic imports since late last year.

Sri Lanka started bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund in April after going into default on its $51 billion in foreign debt.

The economy would fall by 7.0 percent this year, according to Wickremesinghe, who also predicted a recovery in next year.”I am working to stabilise this economy and build it so that the nation can develop by 2023 or 2024,” he said.

It is a challenging task. But if you wait, it will be more challenging. He continued, “We should consider whether we should attempt to treat the patient by administering medication or allow the patient to pass away without administering medication.

He claimed that the present rate of inflation, 60.8 percent, may increase further. Following his victory as president, Wickremesinghe created an interim administration while directing security forces to clear protest locations.

He left the door open for others to join. He has called for a fresh session of the parliament to begin on Wednesday and is anticipated to increase the size of the 18-member cabinet to include representatives from the opposition.