Crisis-hit Sri Lankan economy rebounds as tourists return

Crisis-hit Sri Lankan economy rebounds as tourists return
Crisis-hit Sri Lankan economy rebounds as tourists return

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A flock of pigeons fly outside the Dawatagaha Jumma mosque in Colombo on March 15, 2024. — AFP pic

COLOMBO, March 16 — Sri Lanka’s economy rebounded strongly in the fourth quarter of 2023 from the island nation’s unprecedented financial crisis as tourism arrivals rose, the government said today.

Agriculture, industries and services boosted the expansion to 4.5 per cent in the December quarter compared to a 12.4 per cent contraction a year earlier, the census and statistics department said.

It added however that the economy shrank by 2.4 per cent overall during 2023 compared to a contraction of 7.8 per cent in 2022, when the country defaulted on its US$46 billion (RM216.40 billion) foreign debt.

“Sri Lanka’s economy experienced some kind of duality in 2023,” the department said in a statement, noting that the first half of the year recorded negative growth while the economy bounced back in the second.

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“The long-awaited boom in tourism came towards the end of the year,” the department said, adding that worker remittances too had improved.

The number of tourists visiting the South Asian nation jumped to 210,000 in December, more than double the 91,900 a year earlier.

Sri Lanka is currently drawing down a four-year US$2.9 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund and is in talks with foreign creditors over a debt restructure.

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The peak of the economic crisis in 2022 saw months of food, fuel and pharmaceutical shortages after the island ran out of foreign exchange to pay for imports.

The resulting civil unrest forced the ouster of then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa when protesters stormed his residence in July of that year.

His successor Ranil Wickremesinghe has doubled taxes, withdrawn generous energy subsidies and raised prices of essentials to shore up state revenue. — AFP

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