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Sri Lanka’s youth exodus

Posted June. 18, 2022 07:32,   

Updated June. 18, 2022 07:32


“I cannot live in Sri Lanka any more. As soon as I get my passport, I will leave Sri Lanka in search of a job.”

In front of Sri Lanka’s Department of Immigration and Emigration near Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka on Thursday (local time), Nirmal (20) and Agassi (20), who have been waiting in line with other people that is stretched for hundreds of meters, said with a look of exhaustion. They arrived at where they are around one in the morning the day before after a five-and-a-half-hour bus ride from their hometown.

“I have been waiting in line for 36 hours now,” they said. “There is no end in sight when I will be able to have my passport issued.” After Sri Lanka declared bankruptcy due to economic crisis, making it difficult to find a job locally, he decided to apply for a passport so that he could try to find employment overseas.

Hundreds of people were waiting on the day in front of the Department of Immigration and Emigration for almost two full days. Most of them were young people looking for jobs abroad. “There is no way to make money other than going abroad,” said Nirmal. “I want to go to either Australia or Canada to find a job.”

Sri Lanka’s economy went belly up after the tourism industry – the nation’s main growth driver – failed, and it was coupled with global multiple crises compounded by a global inflation, high oil prices, supply shortage and low growth. This year, for the first time in the world, Sri Lanka declared a sovereign default on May 19. The entire country is in a state of panic as the U.S. dollar (foreign exchange reserves) for importing coal, oil, grain, food and daily necessities are depleted. The Dong-A Ilbo was the first Korean media to visit Sri Lanka since the nation’s official declaration of bankruptcy.

As the bankruptcy of Sri Lanka stems from the multi-crises of the global economy, this is likely to lead to a series of defaults in other emerging and developing countries. Bankruptcy crises are looming in Asia, Africa, South America, such as Pakistan, Laos, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. “The crisis could rub off on India, as emerging powerhouse India also lent 2 billion U.S. dollars to Sri Lanka,” said former Deputy Governor Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Seong-Ho Hwang hsh0330@donga.com