Because of the acute shortage of fuel .. Sri Lanka closes schools and asks employees not to go to work!

Sri Lankan authorities closed schools on Friday and asked government officials not to come to work, in a desperate move to prepare for a severe fuel shortage expected to last for days amid the country's worst economic crisis in decades.

The Ministry of Public Administration asked government officials - except for those maintaining essential services - not to come to work on Friday "in light of the current fuel shortages and transportation facilities problems" across the country.

State and government-approved private schools also closed Friday amid worsening fuel shortages, with thousands of people waiting in queues at gas stations across the country for days at a time.

Sri Lanka is now almost completely gasoline-free and is also facing severe shortages of other fuels.

Sri Lanka had asked its citizens not to queue to get gasoline, because the country, which is on the verge of default, does not have the dollars to pay for a single shipment of fuel.

And "Bloomberg" news agency quoted Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera as telling parliament last Wednesday: "There is a gasoline ship in our waters...but we don't have foreign currency."

The minister said Sri Lanka also owes the same supplier $53 million, the price of a previous shipment of gasoline.

The country is going through the worst economic situation in its history since it gained independence.

Shortages of everything, from food to cooking gas, led to the fastest inflation in Asia, where prices rose by nearly 30%, and the matter developed into social and political unrest.

Less than a week after taking office, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said last Monday that the country had only a day's stock of gasoline, and the government was trying to get dollars on the open market to pay for fuel shipments on three ships parked in Sri Lankan waters.

The Prime Minister also told Parliament, on Wednesday, that the government is in talks with the World Bank to transfer part of the $160 million in social welfare aid to pay for fuel imports.

In mid-April, the Sri Lankan government announced its intention to stop paying its external debts to maintain cash flow to import food and fuel, in light of the deterioration of its foreign exchange earnings, which prompted the authorities to impose restrictions on the exit of funds and imports.

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