Amid what amounts to a virtually total collapse of its economy, Sri Lanka has introduced strict fuel rationing enforced by a QR code system linked to the national identification database.
The development has online watchers concerned that the move is another step towards installing Chinese Communist Party-style social credit and digital identity systems across the world, starting in the emerging markets.
A July 26 article by Business Standard quoted Kanchana Wijesekera, Minister of Power and Energy, as stating that the police and military had been deployed to tokenize gasoline and diesel sales.
NDTV reported on July 16 that the government had indeed launched a social credit system to manage fuel supplies as it announced the “National Fuel Pass,” which manages citizens’s weekly fuel quota and is tied to their National Identity Card (NIC) number.
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The article explained that fuel quotas will be distributed to registered vehicle owners based on their license plate number.
Additionally, foreigners and tourists will receive priority over locals.
NDTV said that in a tweet, Wijesekera was open with the public about a QR code being utilized, “Introduction to the National Fuel Pass will be held at 12.30 pm. A guaranteed weekly fuel quota will be allocated. 1 Vehicle per 1 NIC, QR code allocated once Vehicle Chassis number & details verified. 2 days of the week according to Last Digit of number plate for fueling with QR,” it read.
In another tweet circulating on English social media, a gas station employee is seen scanning the QR code of a customer’s phone with his phone in a similar fashion to how vaccine passports were deployed in bars, restaurants, and shops across the world.
The system is the same in form as that utilized during a wargame conducted in Ireland in May, which prepared officials on how to handle potential fuel shortages heading into fall and winter.
In the wargame, not only would fuel be rationed from the public in favor of essential workers and other elites, being distributed on certain dates and at select stations determined via license plate number, but COVID-style lockdowns would be deployed in addition to significantly reducing speed limits across the board.
A second July 25 article published by Business Standard cited Dasun Hegoda, Director of the Information and Communication Technology Agency, as stating that although the social credit digital identification system was only deployed in the capital of Colombo as a “pilot project,” that, “Now we will implement it in selected gas stations in all 25 districts.”
July 22 reporting by Sri Lankan media outlet Colombo Page paraphrased a minister as admitting the QR code system had the types of drawbacks the world already experienced with vaccine passports and other implementations of social credit.
“During the implementation of the new system, the general public had to face practical problems such as the lack of smart phones, lack of technical knowledge, inability to access the relevant website, and inability to present the QR code at a gas station,” it stated.
“Those who do not have a smart phone will be given printed copies of the QR code to keep with them or display in the vehicle using the technology they know. More than 100,000 people have availed this service,” the outlet reported.
QR code social credit and digital identification systems are a particular hallmark of life in mainland China under the Communist Party.
Since the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began at the end of 2019, citizens have had their entire life dictated by the status of their “health pass.”
A July 23 tweet by the account @Songpinganq, a well known reposter of lockdown and social credit passport videos from Chinese social media, illustrated the issue well.
“This is what life has become in China since Wuhan initial Covid outbreak. A green QR code is needed to access public transportation, stores or to go to work. That means your Covid test can’t be older than 48 hours. Keeping it current cost each person 50 a month in testing fees,” they stated.
The video attached to the post showed dozens of Chinese citizens clad in masks crowding around a kiosk, shoving their smartphone with their digital identification-linked QR code forward looking to get scanned, so they can proceed with daily living.
Business Standard added that Sri Lanka’s nationalized refineries had increased the price of gasoline by almost 20 percent, reaching 550 rupees per liter ($1.32 USD approx.)
There are 3.78 liters to a U.S. gallon.
Data from website Trading Economics showed that the country’s minimum wage was 125,000 rupees per month ($342 USD approx.) as of December.
The average wage is 1,147 rupees per day ($3.13 USD approx.).
Wijesekera was forced to admit plainly that, “Sri Lanka will not receive shipments of petrol, diesel and crude oil, scheduled for this week and next week.”
Diplomats are reported to be traveling to Russia to attempt to negotiate supplies.
Sri Lanka is an island nation off the Southern coast of India and home to more than 22 million people.
June 25 reporting by Reuters stated that the Minister had tweeted that all fuel imports were to be restricted for the next 12 months due to “forex issues.”
Reuters added that Sri Lanka is attempting to sign a $3 billion bailout with the IMF, in addition to courting India and the CCP for economic assistance.
Sri Lanka ran into trouble earlier this year as the country, which primarily relied on tourism and overseas workers who sent currency home before the pandemic began, ran out of foreign reserves, leaving itself without available U.S. petrodollars to import oil, gasoline, diesel, and other fuel oils.
Earlier in the month, thousands of protesters besieged the Presidential Palace after the government outlawed the sale of gasoline and LP gas — Sri Lanka’s version of propane — to anyone besides essential workers.
In response, protestors burned President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s house to the ground, causing him to resign and flee the country shortly afterwards.
In May, Iran, which is manifesting concerning signs of suffering from a widespread famine suppressed by the regime, began rationing bread using a social credit QR code system.
Citizens who either wanted or needed to purchase bread at subsidized prices would have to do so via the system unless they were willing and able to pay inflated market prices.