IMF team visits crisis-hit Sri Lanka

A delegation of the International Monetary Fund has arrived in Sri Lanka, which is facing the worst economic crisis in its history, for talks on a bailout program.

The nine-member mission started talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other officials in Colombo on Monday. The government hopes a basic agreement on assistance can be reached by the end of the month.

Also on Monday, all but a few public offices and schools shut down for two weeks. The government judged there isn't enough fuel to keep them open.

The island nation has been struggling to find foreign currency. Massive external debts are one factor driving the crisis.
The currency has plunged, triggering violent inflation. Prices of food, including staples such as rice and bread, have jumped twofold to fivefold in recent years.

Earlier this month, the United Nations warned of a humanitarian emergency in the country. It's appealed for 47 million dollars in life-saving aid for 1.7 million Sri Lankan people worst hit by the crisis.

The economic meltdown has sparked huge protests. Clashes between civilians and police are on the rise. Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, whom they blame for mismanaging the economy.