Sri Lanka’s new prime minister has proposed privatising the country’s loss-making national airline as part of reforms aimed at solving the country worst economic crisis in decades. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a message to the people that he plans to propose a special relief budget that will take the place of the development-oriented budget earlier approved for this year, He said it would channel funds previously allocated for infrastructure development to public welfare.
Wickremesinghe said Sri Lankan Airlines lost about US$123 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ended in March, and its aggregate losses exceeded US$1 billion as of March 2021. “Even if we privatise Sri Lankan Airlines, this is a loss that we must bear. You must be aware that this is a loss that must be borne even by the poor people of this country who have never stepped on an airplane,” Wickremesinghe said.
Sri Lankan Airlines was managed by Emirates Airlines from 1998 to 2008. In 2010, the government in Colombo bought back a stake in Sri Lankan Airlines from Dubai’s Emirates. The national carrier, which has a fleet of 25 Airbus SE planes, flies to destinations in Europe, the Middle East as well as South and Southeast Asia, according to FlightRadar24.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe as prime minister in a bid to quell the island nation’s political and economic crisis. The president’s brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, stepped down as prime minister on 9 May amid violence that left nine people dead and more than 200 wounded. Protesters have demanded the powerful Rajapaksa family resign to take responsibility for leading the country into the economic crisis.