ONE = From The ECONOMIST magazine, Summer Issue, 30 July – 12th August … & the Mid-August Issue The Economist
On the evening of July 21st, a relaxed mood prevailed in Sri Lanka’s presidential secretariat on the seafront of Colombo, the capital. A handful of protesters milled about in the entrance hall, which they had occupied on July 9th and turned into a library full of donated books. They said they were planning to return the premises to the state the following day, having succeeded in driving from office Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the disgraced former president.
The new government had other ideas. Not long after, in the early hours of July 22nd, soldiers and police in riot gear evicted the remaining protesters from the building, tore down their tents outside and put up metal barricades. They arrested several protesters and injured a handful badly enough to send them to hospital.
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TWO:From The ECONOMIST magazine, Summer Issue, 30 July – 12th August … & the Mid-August Issue – entitled ” The hard road back”
For monthe, Gotabaya Rajapaksa the former president of Sri Lanka, was told that the economy was in free fall. The covid-19 pandemic hit tourism hard and, just as visitors began to return, Russia’s war in Ukraine pushed up fuel and food prices. But external shocks were only part of the problem. The main cause of Sri Lanka’s misery, and the reason protesters stormed the presidential palace on July 9th, was mismanagement. Errors by Mr Rajapaksa and his brothers, who treated the government like a family business, caused inflation to spiral, the currency to collapse and foreign reserves to evaporate.
Enter Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took over as president on July 21st, a week after Mr Rajapaksa fled the country. The burden of guiding Sri Lanka out of its worst-ever economic crisis now falls on him. Protesters remain in the streets. Anger over power cuts and shortages of food, fuel and medicine is unabated. Yet somehow Mr Wickremesinghe must persuade his people to endure more pain, because the reforms needed to turn Sri Lanka round will involve further sacrifice.
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THREE: The Economist, August 17th Issue
THE JOURNEY from Bandaranaike Airport, Sri Lanka’s main international hub, to Colombo, its capital and biggest city, has been a smooth one ever since a new elevated highway was opened nearly a decade ago. But once in the city, warns the latest edition of a popular guidebook, “streets remain as congested as ever during the day so add plenty of time”.
Not in July. Gone were the traffic snarls and gridlock. Instead, it was at the edges of the roads that vehicles gathered, as though an automotive Moses had parted the great mass of cars and auto-rickshaws. Those were queues for fuel, extending as far as the eyes could see.
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