Sri Lanka central bank governor submits resignation amid crisis

International Desk Published: 4 April 2022, 01:29 PM
Sri Lanka central bank governor submits resignation amid crisis
Ajith Nivard Cabraal

The governor of Sri Lanka's central bank says he has submitted his resignation as the country faces its worst economic crisis in decades.

Ajith Nivard Cabraal's announcement came after all of the country's cabinet ministers resigned.

Angry protestors have also been calling for the country's prime minister and president to step down.

A severe shortage of foreign currency has left the government unable to pay for essential imports, including fuel.

The island nation of some 22 million people is suffering from its most serious economic crisis since independence from the UK in 1948.

The central bank was due to make an interest rate decision on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the central bank told the BBC on Monday afternoon that there were currently no plans to postpone the announcement.

Lakshini Fernando, of Asia Securities, said she expects the bank to raise its main interest rate by at least two percentage points as it tries to stabilise the Sri Lankan rupee.

The currency has lost more 30% of its value against the US dollar since it was devalued last month.

While the market is likely to react positively to Mr Cabraal's resignation, "the key will be who takes over at this juncture," Ms Fernando told the BBC.

"We definitely need more clarity on policy for a stronger momentum," she said.

Demonstrators have been taking to the streets of the capital Colombo as homes and businesses have had their electricity cut for up to 13 hours at a time.

Sri Lankans are also dealing with shortages and soaring inflation, after the country steeply devalued its currency last month ahead of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout.

It comes as 26 of Sri Lanka's ministers have submitted letters of resignation - but not Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa or his brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Meanwhile, President Rajapaksa's former attorney Ali Sabry, was sworn in as the country's new finance minister on Monday.

Mr Cabraal was appointed as the central bank's 16th governor last September.

He was previously the bank's 12th governor for almost a decade, from July 2006 to January 2015.

During his first term in office Mr Cabraal also helped to more than triple the size of the Sri Lankan economy, according to the bank.

With him in charge, the bank said: "Sri Lanka was able to maintain sound and stable macro-economic fundamentals, with inflation being contained at low levels, and financial system stability being achieved in a time of severe global uncertainties and turmoil".