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Bankrupt Sri Lanka’s inflation jumps beyond 50pc

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s inflation hit a ninth consecutive record in June, official data showed yesterday, rising to 54.6 per cent a day after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) asked the bankrupt nation to rein in galloping prices and corruption.

It was the first time the increase in the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) crossed the psychologically important 50-per-cent mark, according to the department of census and statistics.

The figures came hours after the IMF urged Sri Lanka to contain spiralling inflation and address corruption as part of efforts to salvage the troubled economy, which has been ravaged by a foreign exchange crisis.

The IMF ended 10 days of in-person discussions with Sri Lankan authorities in Colombo on Thursday following the country’s request for a possible bailout.

The CCPI has been setting new monthly highs since October, when year-on-year inflation stood at just 7.6 per cent. In May it reached 39.1 per cent. The rupee has lost more than half its value against the dollar this year.

People eat their breakfast while sitting by a line of empty gas canisters in Galle, Sri Lanka. PHOTO: AP

Private economists say consumer prices are rising even faster than shown in official statistics.

According to an economist at Johns Hopkins university, Steve Hanke, who tracks price increases in the world’s troublespots, Sri Lanka’s current inflation is 128 per cent, second only to Zimbabwe’s 365 per cent.

Faced with an acute energy shortage, Sri Lanka is observing a shutdown of non-essential state institutions for two weeks, along with the closure of schools to reduce commuting.

The country’s 22 million people have been enduring acute shortages of essentials – including food, fuel and medicines – for months.

Protests are continuing outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office demanding his resignation over the unprecedented economic turmoil and his mismanagement.

Sri Lanka went to the IMF in April after the country defaulted on its USD51-billion external debt.