Economic crisis in Sri Lanka: what is its currency, global exchange rate and why MPs are leaving government

The South Asian country is facing severe shortages, soaring inflation and crippling power cuts

Sri Lanka is facing one of its worst economic crises since its independence from Britain in 1948.

Across the nation, people are demonstrating against the government’s handling of the economic crisis as Sri Lankans protest for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign, which so far, he has refused to do.

The crisis was triggered by the foreign exchange crisis, leading to a low amount of foreign currency, which is used to pay for fuel imports. There are also shortages of food, medicines, and power cuts which can last over half a day.

Why are Sri Lankan MPs leaving the government? 

Mr Rajapaksa ran for power in 2019, winning with a majority after promising stability and a “strong hand” to rule the country, months after the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday bombings.

However, experts say some of his policies, such as steep tax cuts and an import ban, have amplified the crisis, as has his reluctance to get help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Over 40 MPs have now left Mr Rajapaksa’s coalition government. With Mr Rajapaksa’s cabinet resigning on 3 April, it calls into question the prime minister’s authority over parliament.

Sri Lankan prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother, has also refused to step down.

The president has called upon opposition parties to help him form a national government and accept cabinet portfolios - but they all refused and demanded him to resign.

Ajith Cabraal, the country’s central bank governor, stepped down on 4 April after the cabinet quit to allow a new administration to manage the spiralling economic crisis.

President Rajapaksa named four new ministers in the cabinet on 4 April but a day later freshly appointed finance minister, Ali Sabry, also resigned.

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The curfew and social media ban 

A 36-hour curfew was imposed on 3 April by the president after a protest outside the president’s house in Colombo turned violent.

People were banned from being on any public road, in a park, on trains or near the seashore unless they had written permission from the authorities.

Access to social media had also been restricted, with criticisms of this move coming from the president’s nephew, Namal Rajapaksa, who tweeted: “I will never condone the blocking of social media. The availability of VPN, just like I’m using now, makes such bans completely useless. I urge the authorities to think more progressively and reconsider this decision.”

One protester told the BBC: “People can’t afford their daily rice, their dhal, their basic necessities. People can’t get on buses to come to work, to go to school”

Another one said: "How much worse can it get? There’s no petrol, there’s no diesel, kids can’t sit their exams because there’s no paper.”

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What is the currency and global exchange rate in Sri Lanka? 

The Sri Lankan currency is the Rupee. On 5 April 2022, one Sri Lankan Rupee is worth 0.0025 pound sterling.

The rupee is worth 0.0030 Euro, and 0.0033 US dollar.