Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe proposed a government plan to privatise the nation’s flag carrier to decrease debt and generate profit for the economy in a televised address to the Sri Lankan nation.
SriLankan Airlines lost Rs 45 billion (USD$123 billion) in the financial year ended March 2021, and Rs 372 billion (USD$1 billion) in the year since, according to Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe stated that, “Even if we privatise Sri Lankan Airlines, this is a loss that we must bear. You must be aware that this is a loss that must be borne even by the poor people of this country who have never stepped on an airplane.”
Sri Lanka is now experiencing a serious economic crisis, with its foreign reserves dropping by more than 70% as a result of the pandemic, to a low of USD$1.93 billion in the fiscal year ending March 2022.
Wickremesinghe, who was just re-appointed, is already pushing to privatise large swaths of government-funded sectors. Plans are in the works to replace the previously authorised infrastructure development budget with a “special relief” budget that would assist individuals with basic requirements while also lowering the country’s inflation rate.
Wickremesinghe attempted unsuccessfully to sell the airline during his previous stint as Prime Minister. He has constantly pushed for its privatisation in parliament during his tenure in opposition, most notably attacking Professor Charitha Herath, Chairman of the Committee of Public Enterprise (COPE), for failing to supervise the airline’s finances.