Australia to provide $50 million in aid for Sri Lanka’s worsening ‘economic crisis’

The federal government has committed $50 million to support Sri Lanka as Australia’s South Asian neighbour continues to struggle with its .
The Albanese government made the announcement on Monday, with Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil also visiting Sri Lanka on the same day.
The funding will support Sri Lanka to meet its food and healthcare needs.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the nation’s worst economic crisis in 70 years had led to shortages of food, medicine and fuel.
“Not only do we want to help the people of Sri Lanka in its time of need, there are also deeper consequences for the region if this crisis continues,” she said in a statement.
Ms O’Neil’s trip also follows the interception of multiple asylum seeker boats travelling to Australia from the nation in recent weeks.
She will meet with Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa during her visit, as well as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister GL Peiris.

The minister will use the talks to discuss how Australia can assist Sri Lanka through its economic struggles, as well as combatting people smuggling.

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government wanted to use the trip to combat misleading tactics being used by people smugglers in Sri Lanka.
“We will be strong on borders without being weak on humanity – but we will be strong when it comes to our borders,” he told reporters.
“We understand that there are issues in Sri Lanka and that the wrong messages are being given by people smugglers – our message will be very clear.”
The Australian Border Force has reportedly intercepted three asylum seeker boats since the election on 21 May, prompting renewed concerns over the issue.
Mr Albanese said his government is committed to a boat turnback policy as part of Operation Sovereign Borders.

“People smugglers seek to trade in misery – they seek to mislead – often run by criminal syndicates and that is why it is so misleading to behave in that way.”

$50 million to support Sri Lanka’s economic recovery

The Albanese government will commit $22 million to the World Food Programme for emergency food assistance – estimated to help three million people in Sri Lanka.
Australia will also provide another $23 million in development assistance to Sri Lanka in 2022-23.
The island nation’s worst economic crisis in seven decades led to a shortage of foreign exchange that stalled imports of essential items such as fuel and medicine and fertiliser.

It’s also provoked a devaluation in its currency, as well as street protests voicing anger against the political handling of the situation.

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The crisis has come from a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic battering the tourism-reliant economy, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by Mr Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda, who recently resigned as prime minister.

Ms O’Neil’s visit also coincides with the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Australia.

Asian security ties in Australia’s sights

The funding announcement comes as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles will meet his Indian counterpart to discuss strengthening defence and security cooperation.
Mr Marles arrived in India on Monday and will depart on Thursday for a series of high-level meetings at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.
Mr Marles said his first bilateral discussions with Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh would be instrumental in advancing the countries’ ties.
“I look forward to working with him to enhance the defence pillar of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Mr Marles said.
“The rules-based international order that has brought peace and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific for decades is experiencing pressure, as we face shifts in the geostrategic order.

“Australia stands ready to work closer with India in support of an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific”.

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But one point of contention is the Quad partner has remained reluctant to directly condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
It relies on the Kremlin for a significant amount of its arms imports as it moves to deter Chinese aggression on its border.
The Quad, which also includes Australia, the United States and Japan, is working to increase defence cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in the face of a more aggressive China.
Mr Marles will also meet with external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar as well as national security and defence policymakers and personnel.

With AAP.