Economic crisis takes toll on Colombo lodgers

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Colombo is Sri Lanka’s largest city by population and is also the country’s financial centre. There are many people who have come to Colombo from around the island to make their dreams come true and build the life they want. But even if they have come this far by facing challenges, the current situation in the country has made their life unexpectedly more difficult.

Ajith hails from the Kurunegala area and has been working as a security guard for a private firm in Colombo for the past seven years. He said that the cost of living has gone up so much that he has reduced the number of times he visits home and saves up the off days he takes by combining it with the whole months. He says it costs Rs 12,000 for fuel just for a month to travel on his own bike. Also the packet of rice which he had used to buy for Rs 130 now has increased up to Rs 150 and it costs more than Rs 500 per day for all three meals.

Niroda works in the private sector and is taking care of his mother, bearing all the expenses after the loss of his father. He is a resident of Alawwa who travels daily to Colombo by train or by bus. He said half his salary goes for transportation and finds it difficult to survive. He also said it is hard to find pressure medication for his mother and that the needed drugs is hard to find even if they can afford the increased prices.

“I don’t know when this situation will turn to normal. I feel the cost of living well now and I’m fed up,” he lamented.

Twenty-two-year-old Nipuni Ekanayake has been working at a private company in Colombo for more than a year. She said the economic crisis has made her life difficult and stressful. Ekanayake who is from the Kurunegala area lives in a boarding house in Colombo as it is easier for her to travel daily. She claimed that now she has to pay double the amount of money for transport and food than she spent previously.

She lamented that she used to cook her meals daily, but since it is difficult to afford gas she has moved to alternative methods. Also, she said that the boarding fee has also increased and finds it difficult to save some money for herself.

Even though she wants to go home for her holidays she has limited the number of days she visits home. As she is the only child, she finds it difficult to survive by herself and take care of her parents with her salary.

Jonathan who also works at a private company in Colombo is from Kandy. He moved to Colombo six years ago. He said that he lives in a boarding room with no kitchen and amenities and that his spending has doubled due to the financial crisis.

“I always eat out and I see the price of food items has risen so much compared to my income. I’m not sure if I can afford a lot anymore in the coming months and believe that a lot of workers in Colombo who have migrated from other parts of the country might go back to their towns and villages or try to go abroad because they can’t afford to pay rent and high prices in the city,” he added.

He also said that this situation will further aggravate the economic situation with the sharp exit of skilled labour from the financial hub of the country.

Jonathan also said that he thinks the people who earn a minimum wage might also become desperate and turn to petty crime to make ends meet.

He claimed that now he tries to visit his hometown once a month because bus fares have increased and that he tries to save up his holidays or long weekends to go back home.

“I usually try to work overtime on the weekends to make some extra cash or I take part in the protests because I believe we have to press for a system change at this juncture when we are all suffering from bad governance and poor economic management,” he added his point of view.

Lahiru, whose hometown is Badulla has been working at a private company in Colombo for six years.

Lahiru who is in his mid-twenties said that the situation has become terrible for him.

He said that he has been able to manage his expenses by reducing the number of times he visits home.

He claimed that he usually visits home four times per month but now its just once a month. As he is living in a boarding house he said it is much easier to manage finances compared to living in a house paying water and current bills.

He lamented that when half his salary goes for food, transportation and boarding fees, only 35 per cent remains for other expenses and some money to take care of his parents, plus savings.

Chandana Sampath is a security guard who has been working in a company for 10 years.

Sampath lamented that he is taking the bus now due to the petrol hike and that half his salary goes for transportation and food. He said he used to drink tea three times a day but has now limited to one and that too a plain tea.

He said that he earns Rs 1,200 per day and it costs Rs 560 for his all three meals. But now he is omitting a meal. He claimed that even though the cost of living had risen up sky high their salaries won’t increase. He said that he could manage his expenses and family before but now it has become difficult and his wedding had also been postponed.

Although they have different occupations, different hometowns and different family backgrounds, in the end, all are suffering the same due to the cirisis.

By Kanchana Kolagolla