As many as 500,000 could be left jobless in Sri Lanka due to COVID-19: Wickremesinghe

Colombo, May 17 (PTI) Sri Lanka's former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday said that as many as 500,000 people could be left unemployed in the country due to the COVID-19 economic crisis, urging the government to come up with a credible stimulus package to help the island nation's economy ravaged by the pandemic.

Criticising the government's decision to impose a blanket ban on imports to stabilise the country's economy, he said that Sri Lanka is facing a negative economic growth and the government needs to allow the market to operate in order to increase the revenue.

He said that with the uncertain future, as many as 500,000 people could be facing job losses in the country.

'The increase in unemployment will affect all sections of society,' he said.

Terming the government's response to the COVID-19 economic crisis as inadequate, he said that 50 billion rupees (USD 26 million) set aside by the government as economic stimulus was only 2 per cent of the GDP as compared to other countries.

He urged the government to present to the country a credible economic package.

He also criticised the government for printing money to the value of rupees 200 billion (USD 2.6 billion).

To ensure financial stability of the country, the Cabinet last month approved a proposal made by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to enter into an agreement with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for a currency swap worth USD 400 million to boost the country's foreign reserves.

Meanwhile, the ministry of defense on Sunday said that security forces and police personnel are not required to donate their salaries to help the government face the COVID-19 economic crisis.

The government had earlier this month appealed to the state sector employees to donate their salaries for the month of May in full or in part to the government.

The defense ministry said that security forces personnel are exempted from this requirement.

According to the Johns Hopkins University data, Sri Lanka has so far reported 960 COVID-19 cases and 9 deaths. PTI CORR RS RS