Sri Lankan President Gotabay Rajapaksa on Monday declared an economic emergency, giving the authorities the right to seize food from businesses and citizens and set prices for them to contain the sharp rise in inflation after the rapid devaluation of the currency.
The emergency started at midnight. Long lines have formed at the shops: people are short of milk powder, kerosene and gas for cooking.
The government has appointed a former army general as Commissioner for Basic Services, who will have the authority to expropriate food supplies from traders and retailers and regulate their prices.
"These goods will be provided at government-guaranteed prices or on the basis of the customs value of imported goods in order to prevent disturbances in the market," the presidential press service said in a statement.
The Sri Lanka Census and Statistics Department said the appreciation of the exchange rate is one of the reasons behind the rise in prices for many essential goods over the past 12 months.
Monthly inflation in August rose to 6% from 5.7% in July, mainly due to high food prices, the department said.