HomeEquality & JusticeAsian activists express solidarity with debt-burdened Sri Lankan people

Asian activists express solidarity with debt-burdened Sri Lankan people

Activists in several Asian countries on Wednesday, Sept. 7, appealed for solidarity and international support for the people of debt-burdened Sri Lanka.

Demonstrations were simultaneously held in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, and Indonesia to denounce “the strong-arm responses of the Sri Lankan government” against its protesting people.

“We stand by the Sri Lankan people in the exercise of their rights to free speech and assembly,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian  Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD).

Nacpil said the Sri Lankan people do not only suffer from acute fuel and food shortages, but also from their government’s attacks and harassment against mass protest.

“Teargas, water cannons, arrests, increased military surveillance and questioning of civil society leaders in response to people’s opposition have no place in a state that claims to be a democracy,” she said.

Nacpil warned that the worsening condition in Sri Lanka can also happen in the Philippines and other Asian countries, which are dependent to foreign debts.

“Through this action, we highlight the many years of debt dependence, faithful compliance with lenders’ conditionalities, corruption, and mismanagement, which eventually brought Sri Lanka to the point of debt default,” she said.

Filipino activists hold a protest action in Makati City on September 7, to express solidarity with the people of debt-burdened Sri Lanka as they continue to suffer from acute fuel and food shortages. The protesters warned that the Philippines and other Asian countries also risk a similar crisis. (Photo by Jimmy A. Domingo)
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Nacpil warned that the Philippines is “dangerously on the same path as public debt and debt service payments mount.” 

As of July 2022, the Philippines debt stood at PHP12.89 trillion or more than US$225 million, which includes recently incurred debts of PHP96.1 billion or nearly US$1.7 billion in the first month of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The country’s total debt service in 2022 amounted to PHP1.35 trillion (US$23.6 billion) or 26.8 percent of the total budget of PHP5.024 trillion (US$87.877 billion). 

According to experts, next year’s debt service is projected to rise to 29.8 percent of the  proposed PHP 1.6 trillion (US$27.9 billion) budget – “the highest yearly debt servicing on record.” 

As for Sri Lanka, its borrowings went heavily into large scale infrastructure projects that have gone bust under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 42 percent in 2019 to 104 percent in 2021. Up to $8.6 billion in debt payments fall due this year, but the country has less than $1.94 billion in its reserves.

Nacpil said Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Pakistan and many other countries in the global South “share common problems that go beyond  borders.” 

“And we are made to follow rules in policy-making arenas where we are not at the table. This has to stop,” she said. 

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