COVID-19: Govt workers to donate May pay in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka asks government workers to donate May pay to aid coronavirus recovery

Sri Lanka Thursday appealed to its 1.5 million government employees to donate their May salary to the government to boost the economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and a weeks-long lockdown.

The island nation was struggling to recover from last year's Easter Sunday bombings that killed 279 people and devastated the lucrative tourism industry when the virus hit earlier this year.

The government imposed a nationwide lockdown from March 20, closing all industries, transport and shops apart from some that deliver essential supplies such as food and medicine.

In an appeal sent to government departments, top civil servant P.B. Jayasundara called on all public sector workers -- including members of the armed forces and the police -- to forego their salary in the name of "social responsibility."

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"In the past month you could not travel, go shopping. A lot of spending was curtailed," Jayasundara said in the letter, seen by AFP.

"While seeking loans and aid from other countries, we must also demonstrate our internal strength... Consider it (the donation) as your social responsibility at this time of crisis."

Jayasundara said the donations would help the government "drastically narrow the budget deficit" and "manage our national debt" by saving some 100 billion rupees ($525 million).

He added that he was donating his May pay.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said earlier this week that Sri Lanka had not received any international financial aid to combat the virus.

He added that allegations that his government had previously misused foreign aid were "baseless".

There have been 797 positive virus cases and nine deaths on the island, according to government figures.

The lockdown, which has been extended twice, is due to be lifted on Monday.

Sri Lanka's central bank on Wednesday cut interest rates to 6.5 per cent -- the fourth cut this year -- to stimulate growth.

Economic growth slowed to 2.3 per cent last year compared to an expansion of 3.3 per cent in 2018.