Sri Lanka Proposes Privatizing Its National Airline


In a televised address to the Sri Lankan public, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced a government proposal to privatize the country’s flag carrier to reduce debt and generate funds for the economy.

Wickremesinghe emphasized significant losses by SriLankan Airlines between 2020 and 2021 as the primary reason for its privatization, incurring a loss of Rs 45 billion (USD$123 billion) in the financial year ending March 2021, ballooning to Rs 372 billion (USD$1 billion) in the year since.

“Even if we privatize Sri Lankan Airlines, this is a loss that we must bear,” Wickremesinghe noted. “You must be aware that this is a loss that must be borne even by the poor people of this country who have never stepped on an airplane.”

I propose to privatise Sri Lankan Airlines which is incurring extensive losses. The loss for 2020-2021 alone amounts to SLR 45 billion. By 31st March 2021, total loss was at 372 billion. Even if we privatise Sri Lankan Airlines, this is a loss that we must bear: Sri Lankan PM — ANI (@ANI) May 16, 2022

Sri Lanka is currently in the throes of a severe economic crisis, seeing its foreign reserves reduce by over 70% through the pandemic, reaching a low of USD$1.93 billion in the financial year ending March 2022.

Recently re-appointed Wickremesinghe is already moving to privatize significant chunks of government-funded sectors. Plans are in place to replace the previously approved infrastructure development budget with a “special relief” order to provide citizens with basic necessities and curb the country’s inflation rate.

During his previous tenure as Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe unsuccessfully tried to sell off the airline. Through his time in opposition, he has consistently fought for its privatization in parliament, recently criticizing the Chairman of the Committee of Public Enterprise (COPE), Professor Charitha Herath, for failing to control the airline’s finances.