Sri Lankan president expands cabinet ahead of IMF talks – Reuters News in France and abroad

  • President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expanded his cabinet with 17 new ministers on Monday.
  • The president’s older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, remains prime minister despite the exclusion of other family members.
  • Only five members of the previous cabinet were sworn in again, while most of the other portfolios went to members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa expanded his cabinet with 17 new ministers on Monday, but they did not include his family members who were sacked as protests erupted over the government’s handling of a devastating economic crisis .

The president’s older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, remains prime minister.

The island nation of 22 million is suffering from prolonged power cuts and shortages of fuel and medicine, triggered by a sharp drop in its foreign exchange reserves which has blocked imports of essential goods and driven thousands out of the street.

Rajapaksa’s government is set to begin talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan program on Monday, and analysts have flagged political instability as a risk for Sri Lanka to find a way out of the financial turmoil.

Faced with growing popular unrest, Rajapaksa dissolved his cabinet earlier this month and called on all parties in parliament to form a unity government, an offer that was rejected by opposition groups and members of the government. ruling alliance.

“Seventeen new ministers were sworn in before President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the President’s Secretariat today,” said a statement from the President’s office.

Only five members of the previous cabinet were sworn in again, while most of the other portfolios went to members of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party.

“The Cabinet portfolios held by the President and Prime Minister have not changed,” the statement said.

Apart from Mahinda Rajapaksa, no other family member is part of the new cabinet.

Two of the president’s other brothers, Basil and Chamal Rajapaksa, and the prime minister’s son, Namal Rajapaksa, were in the outgoing cabinet and were not reappointed.

Thousands of Sri Lankans have been protesting outside the president’s office in the commercial capital Colombo for more than a week, calling on the Rajapaksas to leave the government.

Economic mismanagement by successive governments has weakened Sri Lanka’s public finances, but the situation has been exacerbated by major tax cuts enacted by the Rajapaksa administration shortly after taking office in 2019.

Key sectors of the economy, particularly tourism, were then battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government dragged its feet in seeking IMF assistance.

Last week, the country’s central bank said it was unilaterally suspending external debt payments, instead using the meager foreign exchange reserves of about $1.93 billion to import essential goods.


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Sri Lankan president expands cabinet ahead of IMF talks – Reuters News in France and abroad

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