Taipei, July 7 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Thursday said it has reached out to around 60 Taiwanese expatriates currently in Sri Lanka, while calling on nationals to refrain from visiting the South Asian nation after its government declared the country “bankrupt.”
Sri Lanka is in the midst of its worst financial crisis in more than seven decades, after its foreign exchange reserves plummeted to record lows, with U.S. dollars running out to pay for essential imports including food, medicine and fuel.
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced Tuesday that the country was bankrupt, adding that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revive the nation’s “collapsed” economy are “difficult.”
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the pandemic but some experts have said it was mainly caused by political mismanagement and racking up debts to China.
Sri Lanka is a key part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a long-term plan to fund and build infrastructure linking China to the rest of the world.
However, some countries including the U.S., have labelled the project a “debt trap” for smaller and poorer nations.
Beijing has always rejected such accusations, and in response has accused some in the West of deliberately promoting a false narrative in an effort to tarnish its image.
An unnamed Taiwanese businessperson in Sri Lanka told CNA Wednesday that they were worried about the situation in the country. Due to its economic crisis, Sri Lanka has been experiencing daily power cuts and fuel shortages for several months, they said.
Lack of fuel means Taiwanese businesses there are unable to operate normally and students are unable to attend school, they added.
Asked to comment, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said protests and violent unrest have been widely reported in Sri Lanka over the past few months due to the severe economic crisis which has caused shortages of basic necessities and impacted transport, businesses and emergency services.
Taiwan has since April raised the travel alert issued on Sri Lanka to the highest “red” level travel advisory, Ou said.
Under the ministry’s four-color travel alert system, the lowest level is gray, followed by yellow, orange and red. A red alert is the highest warning level and advises people to refrain from traveling to the region in question.
MOFA does not have an office in Sri Lanka but its office in Chennai, India is in close contact with about 60 Taiwanese nationals currently in the South Asian country, according to Ou.
They are all safe, Ou said, adding that the ministry will continue to keep in touch with them and provide help if necessary.
Meanwhile, Taiwan has a trade office, the Taipei World Trade Center Liaison Office, based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The office told CNA Wednesday that its operations remain normal and it will help Taiwanese businesses if asked for assistance.
Bilateral trade between Taiwan and Sri Lanka stood at US$489.1 million in 2021, mainly in textiles and garments, making Sri Lanka Taiwan’s 58th largest trading partner, government data shows.
(By Cheng Hung-da, Lai Yen-hsi and Joseph Yeh)


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