Sri Lanka’s PM Ranil Wickremesinghe Proposes Privatising Sri Lankan Airlines amid crisis

Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, announced on Monday that he plans to privatise the country’s national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, as part of a strategy to rescue the country’s debt-ridden economy and political crisis.

Sri Lanka is undergoing its biggest economic crisis since winning independence from Britain in 1948.

“I propose that the loss making Sri Lankan Airlines be privatised”, Wickremesinghe said in his first address to the nation.

According to the Economy Next website, SriLankan Airlines suffered significant losses after previous Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa withdrew Emirates as its managing shareholder.

“It lost 45 billion rupees in the fiscal years 20 and 21 alone. The overall losses by March 31, 2021, were 372 billion rupees, “the prime minister said, while announcing other measures to address Sri Lanka’s economic problems.

“We have to endure the loss even if we privatise it”, Wickremesinghe added. “This loss must be borne by the poorest of the poor who have never set foot on an aircraft”, he further said.

In the administration he led from 2015 to 2019, Wickremesinghe was unable to privatise Sri Lanka.

SriLankan Airlines, founded in 1979, has a global route network of 126 destinations in 61 countries.

Despite pandemic hurdles, SriLankan Airlines said last month that it had its first successful fourth quarter (Q4) since 2006 for the financial year that ended on March 31, 2022, with a group net profit of USD 1.7 million.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, with prices of common commodities skyrocketing and extensive power outages lasting weeks. Thousands of anti-government protestors have taken to the streets since March, calling for the government’s resignation.

The Sri Lankan military had to evacuate Mahinda Rajapaksa hours after he resigned in a pre-dawn operation. Following violence between pro- and anti-government protesters, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s elder brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, resigned. Protesters attempted to break into the Prime Minister’s Temple Trees private residence compound twice overnight, prompting the military’s intervention.