Australian Economy

With Sri Lanka’s economy in crisis, Lasanda Deepthi has to queue for 12 hours to buy petrol for her auto-rickshaw

Lasanda Deepthi, a 43-year-old Sri Lankan woman, plans her day around fuel queues.

The driver of an auto-rickshaw on the outskirts of the commercial capital Colombo, she keeps a  close eye on the petrol gauge of her sky-blue three-wheeler before accepting a job to make sure she has enough fuel.

When the needle is close to empty, she joins the line outside a gas station. Sometimes, she waits through the night for petrol and when she does get it, it costs two-and-a-half times the amount it did eight months ago.

Ms Deepthi is one of millions of people in Sri Lanka battling galloping inflation, falling incomes and shortages of everything from fuel to medicine as the country reels under its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948.

A woman auto-rickshaw driver is a rare sight on the island of 22 million people off the southern coast of India.

Three men look at a woman standing next to an auto-rickshaw taxi
Lasanda Deepthi says she spends more time in line for petrol than doing anything else.(Reuters: Adnan Abidi)

But it’s a job Ms Deepthi has done for seven years to support her family of five, by using local ride-hailing app PickMe.

‘Sometimes I only get fuel about 12 hours later’

Since the financial crisis hit, she has been scrambling to find adequate petrol and earn enough as rides dwindled and inflation surged past 30 per cent year-on-year.

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