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Sri Lanka reaches deal on debt restructuring with bilateral creditors including China and France

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe announced a debt restructuring deal with countries including India, France, Japan and China in a televised address to the nation Wednesday. The agreement marks a key step in the country’s economic recovery after defaulting on debt repayment in 2022.

Sri Lanka is under an International Monetary Fund bailout program and the debt treatment deal is expected to reopen the doors to bilateral transactions and the resumption of foreign projects stalled when the island nation defaulted.

“This morning in Paris, Sri Lanka reached a final agreement with our official bilateral creditors. Similarly, we signed another agreement with China’s Exim Bank today in Beijing.… Sri Lanka won,” Wickremesinghe said.

Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy in April 2022 and suspended repayments on some $83 billion in domestic and foreign loans amid a severe foreign exchange crisis that led to a severe shortage of essentials such as food, medicine, fuel and cooking gas, and hours-long power cuts.

Sri Lanka’s crisis was largely the result of staggering economic mismanagement combined with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which along with 2019 terrorism attacks devastated its important tourism industry. The coronavirus crisis also disrupted the flow of remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad.

Additionally, the then-government slashed taxes in 2019, depleting the treasury just as the virus hit. Foreign exchange reserves plummeted, leaving Sri Lanka unable to pay for imports or defend its beleaguered currency, the rupee.

Wickremesinghe said with these agreements, Sri Lanka will be able to defer all bilateral loan instalment payments until 2028. Furthermore, Sri Lanka will be able to repay