COLOMBO, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka is expecting as much as $5 billion in loans next year from multilateral agencies besides an IMF deal, while the government is aiming to raise up to $3 billion via restructuring of state assets, its foreign minister told Reuters on Wednesday.
The island nation’s worst economic crisis in more than seven decades has resulted in widespread unrest due to shortages of food and fuel. Its then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was ousted in July.
Additional funds are critical for the country that is already saddled with a public external debt of $40.6 billion, of which it owes 22% to Chinese creditors.
In September, the country of 22 million reached an agreement with the IMF for a loan of $2.9 billion, which could be approved for disbursal next year.
“Apart from what we get from the IMF, we are looking at all others, the multilaterals put together another $4-$5 billion …,” Ali Sabry said in an interview.
“The president is interested in restructuring some of the (state) institutions, so through that if we can raise $2-$3 billion, our treasury and reserves become strengthened.”
Sri Lanka was expecting to seek IMF board approval for the loan in December but that has likely been pushed to January, the minister said, as the government works to lock in financing assurances from countries including China, Japan and India, as well as private creditors.
Sabry said Sri Lanka was still waiting for “letters of assurance” for debt restructuring from its largest bilateral creditor China, as well as India.
The two countries have backed the restructuring efforts and Sri Lanka has shared documents and data with them, he said.
“We have made it very clear to the IMF, to our multilateral partners and to our bilateral friends that patience is running out and it is urgent for the sake of Sri Lankans and the good health of the world economy,” Sabry said.
Overall, Sri Lanka’s economy has improved with essential imports such as fuel and food becoming regular, Sabry said.
Inflation, which edged above 70% earlier this year, eased to 61% at the end of November but the economy is expected to contract by about 8.7% this year.
“Some stability is taking place. Then growth can return,” Sabry said. “So that should start in the next quarter of next year with the IMF loan coming in, other multilateral agencies coming in. But for growth to take place, it is going to be 2024.”