COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – Thai Prime Minister Suretta Thavisin was the guest of honor at Sri Lanka’s 76th Independence Day celebrations on Sunday, as the country struggles to emerge from its worst economic crisis.
Ms Suretta attended a low-key ceremony near the country’s main seaside promenade, which included a military parade and a parachute drop, along with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe. This holiday commemorates Sri Lanka’s independence from British rule in 1948.
Sri Lanka was declared bankrupt in April 2022 with debts of more than $83 billion, more than half of which were owed to foreign creditors. The economic turmoil triggered a political crisis, forcing then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign in 2022. Parliament then elected Wickremesinghe as president.
Mr. Suletta arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday, where the two countries signed a free trade agreement aimed at boosting trade and investment.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said on Saturday that Sri Lanka has made significant progress in stabilizing its economy and sought Thailand’s support in efforts to transform its battered economy and restore international credibility.
Sri Lanka suspended debt servicing in 2022 due to lack of foreign exchange needed to import fuel and other essentials. The shortage sparked street protests and changed the country’s leadership. The International Monetary Fund approved a four-year relief program last March.
Economic conditions improved under Wickremesinghe’s administration, and severe food, fuel and medicine shortages were largely alleviated. However, public dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts to raise revenue by raising electricity prices and imposing heavy new income taxes on professionals and businesses as part of the government’s efforts to meet IMF conditions It’s increasing.
Sri Lanka wants to restructure its $17 billion outstanding debt and has already reached agreements with some external creditors.