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COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will seek an International Monetary Fund bailout, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Wednesday, to battle record inflation and unprecedented food and fuel shortages as the country runs out of dollars to finance imports.

The South Asia nation is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948 with long queues forming outside gas stations and rolling daily blackouts imposed across the country.

“Subsequent to my discussions with the International Monetary Fund, I have decided to work with them,” Rajapaksa said in an address to the nation a day after meeting with an IMF delegation in Colombo.

A huge crowd stormed the president’s seaside office over runaway prices with the rising cost of food, medicine and other essential goods causing serious hardship for Sri Lanka’s 22-million people.

Rajapaksa urged residents to play their part and conserve imported energy to help authorities manage the scarce foreign exchange reserves.

“By limiting the use of fuel and electricity as much as possible, the citizens too can extend their support to the country at this time,” Rajapaksa said.

“I hope that you will understand the responsibility lies with you at this challenging time.”

He added that IMF help was needed to secure “a new method” to repay external debt and sovereign bonds this year with around $6.9 billion needed this year for debt servicing.

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