COLOMBO (AFP) – Bankrupt Sri Lanka will drastically slash its military, the Defence Ministry said yesterday, as the government works to overhaul its shambolic finances after an unprecedented economic crisis.
The island nation is still reeling from months of food and fuel shortages that made daily life a misery for its 22 million people last year.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe hiked taxes and imposed harsh spending cuts to smooth the passage of an expected International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout following a government debt default.
Sri Lanka’s armed forces are next on the chopping block, with the defence ministry announcing it would retire 65,000 soldiers from its 200,000-strong army over the year.
The cuts make up the lion’s share of plans to downsize Sri Lanka’s land forces to 100,000 by the end of the decade.
“The overall aim of the strategic blueprint is to broach a technically and tactically sound and well-balanced defence force,” a ministry statement said.
Sri Lanka’s armed forces remain bloated over a decade after the end of the country’s traumatic ethnic civil war.
Defence accounted for nearly 10 per cent of public spending last year, and according to expert analysts, pay for security force personnel makes up half the government’s salary bill.
Sri Lanka warned this week it had barely enough revenue to pay public employees and pensions despite huge tax hikes at the start of the year.