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New Delhi: A majority of Sri Lankans in 2021 believed that their economic conditions are getting worse, and their confidence in the government has tumbled to a record low, a private survey showed.
According to Gallup polling in Sri Lanka, the citizens, for the first time ever, were more pessimistic than optimistic about the direction of their local economy.
The survey results were released at a time when Sri Lanka is grappling with the worst economic crisis in decades, which has spiked the prices of essential commodities like rice, milk powder, cooking gas and fuel, due to a foreign exchange crunch. People have taken to the streets demanding Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation for failing to address the worst economic crisis in the island nation.
On April 19, the Sri Lankan police fired on protesters, killing one person and injuring a dozen more as the country sought rapid financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ease the worsening economic crisis.
In the first round of three surveys that started in October 2021, only 40% of the respondents said that their economy was getting better – the lowest number since 2007, probably when the first survey was conducted. In the next two surveys conducted in November and December, the numbers tumbled further at 30% and 25%, respectively.
In the third survey, 61% of the respondents said that their economic conditions were getting worse, the highest number till date. In the first and second survey, 48% and 59% of the respondents believed that their economy was at a worse state than before.
Confidence in the national government also tumbled to a record low – with only 50% of Sri Lankans expressing confidence in their national government in the first survey. In the next two surveys, it tumbled even further with only 43% and 41% of the respondents expressing confidence in the government.
Meanwhile, the World Bank has warned that the country will slip into poverty and urged the government to undertake urgent policy measures to address the high levels of debt, trim the fiscal deficit, and mitigate the adverse impacts on the poor and vulnerable.
Around 11.7% of people in Sri Lanka earn less than $3.20 per day, the international poverty line for lower-middle income countries, up from 9.2% in 2019, the Bank said in its Spring Update on the South Asian region.
The other reason for the increase in poverty rates in the country was because the government’s ‘Samurdhi programme’, which covers around 1.2 million poor families in the country, remained inadequate.
Less than half of the poor were beneficiaries of the ‘Samurdhi’, Sri Lanka’s social safety net programme, and benefit amounts remain largely inadequate, it said.
Due to the pandemic, the Sri Lankan economy has contracted by 3.6% in 2020, it added.
Separately, global rating agency Standard and Poor’s on April 25, Sunday lowered long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating on Sri Lanka to “SD” (selective default) from “CC” as the crisis-hit island nation missed an interest payment on bonds. Earlier, Fitch had also downgraded the nation’s long-term foreign currency to “C” – one step above default.
(With inputs from PTI)