December 21, 2018 / 1:01 PM / 3 months ago

Sri Lanka passes 1.77-trln-rupee vote on account for 4 months

COLOMBO, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s parliament on Friday passed a 1.77-trillion-rupee ($9.39 billion) vote on account to meet government expenditure for the first four months of 2019 to avert a government shutdown from Jan. 1 due to a political crisis.

The island-nation was plunged into crisis in October after Sirisena replaced Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe with ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, without the backing of parliament, leading to protests and downgrades of Sri Lanka’s debt.

Rajapaksa, best known for crushing a long-running insurgency in the north of the country and drawing Sri Lanka closer to China, failed to win a parliamentary majority and resigned on Saturday as a government shutdown loomed.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena reinstated Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister early in the week and appointed a 30-member cabinet on Thursday, retaining control over the police while they investigate an alleged plot to kill him that triggered a row with the premier and led to a lengthy political crisis.

“We expected to present a budget on Nov. 5 but due to the Oct. 26 crisis we were not able to pass a budget,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe told parliament.

“The control of finance is with the parliament and to control finance it needs the parliamentary majority.... We had to bring in this vote on account because of this crisis.”

The vote on account, passed with 102 votes against 6 in the 225-member parliament, saw a 970.4-million-rupee allocation for debt servicing in the first four months of 2019 and sought permission to raise up to 990 billion rupees as loans.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera told the parliament that if the political crisis continued the “country would have run in to a worse situation than Greece and Argentina.” ($1 = 181.1000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Sunil Nair)

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