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Cash-strapped Sri Lanka to sign debt deals with China, other lenders to meet IMF bailout

A treasury delegation is on its way to France to sign agreements with creditors on Wednesday, government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana said.

Sri Lanka defaulted on its foreign debt in April 2022 after running out of foreign exchange, and the unprecedented economic crisis forced the then president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down.

The government had expected a debt deal with all its creditors before the end of 2022, but negotiations dragged.

Bilateral creditors account for 28.5 per cent of Sri Lanka’s current outstanding foreign debt of US$37 billion, according to treasury data at the end of March.

China is the largest single bilateral lender, accounting for US$4.66 billion out of a total of US$10.58 billion borrowed from other countries.

Japan is second, with US$2.35 billion, and India is third with US$1.36 billion.

Sri Lanka’s commercial borrowings include US$12.55 billion raised through International Sovereign Bonds (ISB), and another US$2.18 billion from the China Development Bank.

“Talks with ISB holders are still ongoing,” Gunawardana said, adding that the debt deal with bilateral creditors was an important achievement for the island.

He said President Ranil Wickremesinghe will disclose details of the deal with official creditors in a speech to the nation on Wednesday evening.

While the cabinet of ministers has approved the terms of the agreements with creditors, Gunawardana declined to provide detail, saying that would be announced by the president on Wednesday.

The International Monetary Fund gave Sri Lanka this month the latest tranche of US$336 million out of a US$2.9 billion rescue package designed to help repair the island nation’s ruined finances over four years.

Sri Lanka is due to hold a presidential election this