Turbulence ahead: Airline on the block in Sri Lanka reforms

SriLankan chairman Ashok Pathirage acknowledges the airline’s current balance sheet is not an attractive proposition.

“If you try to privatise the whole thing, people will come and ask the government to take half of the debt,” Pathirage told AFP.

But he said SriLankan could settle about half of its liabilities by splitting off and selling profitable business arms, including its virtual monopoly on catering and ground handling at Colombo airport.

Trade union leaders and employees support a restructuring along those lines, on the condition that no jobs are cut.

“The airline is losing money not because of the staff, but expensive leases and poor financial structures,” a cabin crew member, who requested anonymity, told AFP.

But selling off the airline’s profitable divisions would leave the rump operations generating even bigger losses for the government.

Former state finance minister Eran Wickramaratne told AFP that if authorities could not find an investor, the airline should be grounded permanently before it could burden the public further.

“We are a bankrupt country,” he said. “We have not been able to service our debt, and that reality has struck home.”

(curtesy Yahoo news)

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