Sri Lanka gives government workers an extra day off a week

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In response to fears of a food shortage, Sri Lanka is offering government workers an extra day off per week to encourage them to grow food.

Around one million people work in the public sector in the country.

It comes at a time when the island nation, which has a population of roughly 22 million people, is experiencing its greatest economic crisis in more than 70 years.

Due to a severe currency shortage, Sri Lanka is unable to pay for crucial imports such as food, fuel, and medicine.

The government approved a plan for public sector workers to be granted Friday off for the next three months late Monday.

The decision was made in part to assist workers who are having trouble going to work owing to gasoline shortages, as well as to encourage them to cultivate fruit and vegetables to support themselves and their families.

“As a solution to the food shortage that is expected to occur in the future, it appears appropriate to grant government officials leave for one working day of the week and provide them with the necessary facilities to engage in agricultural activities in their backyards or elsewhere,” the government said in a statement on its online news portal.

Mr Wickremesinghe warned earlier this month that the country would need at least $5 billion (£4.15 billion) this year to pay for necessary imports.

An IMF group is slated to arrive in Colombo next Monday to discuss an economic bailout package with the government.

The depreciation of the Sri Lankan rupee, rising global commodity prices, and the lifting of a ban on chemical fertilisers all contributed to annual food price increases of more than 57% in April.

The country’s Agriculture Minister, Mahinda Amaraweera, called for farmers to cultivate more rice at the end of last month, stating, “It is apparent the food situation is getting worse.”

“We ask all farmers to plant paddy [rice] in their fields in the next five to 10 days,” he continued.

To assist in shore up its finances, the government hiked taxes at the same time.