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Sri Lanka Main Page


The first Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C. probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced in about the mid-third century B.C., and a great civilization developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (kingdom from circa 200 B.C. to circa A.D. 1000) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty established a Tamil kingdom in northern Sri Lanka. The coastal areas of the island were controlled by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century. The island was ceded to the British in 1796, became a crown colony in 1802, and was united under British rule by 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted into war in 1983. After two decades of fighting, the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) formalized a cease-fire in February 2002 with Norway brokering peace negotiations. Violence between the LTTE and government forces intensified in 2006 and the government regained control of the Eastern Province in 2007. In May 2009, the government announced that its military had finally defeated the remnants of the LTTE and that its leader, Velupillai PRABHAKARAN, had been killed.
Geography ::Sri Lanka
Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India
Geographic coordinates:
7 00 N, 81 00 E
total: 65,610 sq km
country comparison to the world: 121
land: 64,630 sq km
water: 980 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries:
0 km
1,340 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Current Weather
tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October)
mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pidurutalagala 2,524 m
Natural resources:
limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower
Land use:
arable land: 13.96%
permanent crops: 15.24%
other: 70.8% (2005)
Irrigated land:
7,430 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
50 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 12.61 cu km/yr (2%/2%/95%)
per capita: 608 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards:
occasional cyclones and tornadoes
Environment - current issues:
deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air pollution in Colombo
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes
People ::Sri Lanka
country comparison to the world: 55
note: since the outbreak of hostilities between the government and armed Tamil separatists in the mid-1980s, several hundred thousand Tamil civilians have fled the island and more than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 23.9% (male 2,594,815/female 2,493,002)
15-64 years: 68% (male 7,089,307/female 7,418,123)
65 years and over: 8.1% (male 803,172/female 926,372) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 31.3 years
male: 30.3 years
female: 32.2 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.863% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 132
Birth rate:
15.88 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 130
Death rate:
6.2 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159
Net migration rate:
-1.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
urban population: 15% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.044 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 18.14 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 105
male: 19.9 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 16.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 75.3 years
country comparison to the world: 85
male: 73.22 years
female: 77.47 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.96 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
less than 0.1% (2001 est.)
country comparison to the world: 157
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
3,800 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 200 (2003 est.)
country comparison to the world: 117
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: dengue fever and chikungunya
water contact disease: leptospirosis
animal contact disease: rabies (2009)
noun: Sri Lankan(s)
adjective: Sri Lankan
Ethnic groups:
Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)
Buddhist 69.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Hindu 7.1%, Christian 6.2%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data)
Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%
note: English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10% of the population
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.7%
male: 92.3%
female: 89.1% (2001 census)
Education expenditures:
Government ::Sri Lanka
Country name:
conventional long form: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
conventional short form: Sri Lanka
local long form: Shri Lamka Prajatantrika Samajaya di Janarajaya/Ilankai Jananayaka Choshalichak Kutiyarachu
local short form: Shri Lamka/Ilankai
former: Serendib, Ceylon
Government type:
name: Colombo
geographic coordinates: 6 56 N, 79 51 E
time difference: UTC+5.5 (10.5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte (legislative capital)
Administrative divisions:
9 provinces; Central, Eastern, North Central, Northern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western
4 February 1948 (from the UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 February (1948)
adopted 16 August 1978, certified 31 August 1978; amended 20 December 2001
Legal system:
a highly complex mixture of English common law, Roman-Dutch, Kandyan, and Jaffna Tamil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Mahinda Percy RAJAPAKSA (since 19 November 2005); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government; Dissanayake Mudiyanselage JAYARATNE holds the largely ceremonial title of prime minister (since 21 April 2010)
head of government: President Mahinda Percy RAJAPAKSA (since 19 November 2005)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term (two-term limit); election last held on 26 January 2010 (next to be held in 2016)
election results: Mahinda RAJAPAKSA reelected president for second term; percent of vote - Mahinda RAJAPAKSA 57.88%, Sarath FONSEKA 40.15%, other 1.97%
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament (225 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of an open-list, proportional representation system by electoral district to serve six-year terms)
elections: last held on 8 April 2010 with a repoll in two electorates held on 20 April 2010 (next to be held by April 2016)
election results: percent of vote by alliance or party - United People's Freedom Alliance 60.93%, United National Party 29.34%, Democratic National Alliance 5.49%, Tamil National Alliance 2.9%, other 1.94%; seats by alliance or party - United People's Freedom Alliance 144, United National Party 60, Tamil National Alliance 14, Democratic National Alliance 7
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court; Court of Appeals; judges for both courts are appointed by the president
Political parties and leaders:
Coalitions and leaders: Democratic National Alliance led by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or JVP [Somawansa AMARASINGHE]; Tamil National Alliance led by Illandai Tamil Arasu Kachchi [R. SAMPANTHAN]; United National Front led by United National Party [Ranil WICKREMESINGHE]; United People's Freedom Alliance led by Sri Lanka Freedom Party [Mahinda RAJAPAKSA]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE [P. SIVAPARAN, Chief of International Secretariat; V. RUDRAKUMARAN, legal advisor]; note - this insurgent group suffered military defeat in May 2009; some cadres remain scattered throughout country;
other: Buddhist clergy; labor unions; radical chauvinist Sinhalese groups such as the National Movement Against Terrorism; Sinhalese Buddhist lay groups
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Jaliya Chitran WICKRAMASURIYA
chancery: 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 483-4025 through 4028
FAX: [1] (202) 232-7181
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
consulate(s): New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Patricia A. BUTENIS
embassy: 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3
mailing address: P. O. Box 106, Colombo
telephone: [94] (11) 249-8500
FAX: [94] (11) 243-7345
Flag description:
yellow with two panels; the smaller hoist-side panel has two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and orange; the other larger panel depicts a yellow lion holding a sword on a dark red rectangular field that also displays a yellow bo leaf in each corner; the yellow field appears as a border around the entire flag and extends between the two panels; the lion represents Sinhalese ethnicity, the strength of the nation, and bravery; the sword demonstrates the sovereignty of the nation; the four bo leaves - symbolizing Buddhism and its influence on the country - stand for the four virtues of kindness, friendliness, happiness, and equanimity; orange signifies Sri Lankan Tamils, green the Sri Lankan Moors; dark red represents the European Burghers, but also refers to the rich colonial background of the country; yellow denotes other ethnic groups; also referred to as the Lion Flag
National anthem:
name: "Sri Lanka Matha" (Mother Sri Lanka)
lyrics/music: Ananda SAMARKONE
note: adopted 1951
Economy ::Sri Lanka
Economy - overview:
Sri Lanka is engaging in large-scale reconstruction and development projects following the end of the 26-year conflict with the LTTE, including increasing electricity access and rebuilding its road and rail network. Additionally, Sri Lanka seeks to reduce poverty by using a combination of state directed policies and private investment promotion to spur growth in disadvantaged areas, develop small and medium enterprises, and promote increased agriculture, High levels of government funding may be difficult, as the government already is faced with high debt interest payments, a bloated civil service, and historically high budget deficits. The 2008-09 global financial crisis and recession exposed Sri Lanka's economic vulnerabilities and nearly caused a balance of payments crisis, which was alleviated by a $2.6 billion IMF standby agreement in July 2009. The end of the civil war and the IMF loan, however, have largely restored investors' confidence, reflected in part by the Sri Lankan stock market's recognition as one of the best performing markets in the world. Sri Lankan growth rates averaged nearly 5% in during the war, but increased government spending on development and fighting the LTTE in the final years spurred GDP growth to around 6-7% per year in 2006-08. After experiencing 3.5% growth in 2009, Sri Lanka's economy is poised to achieve high growth rates in the postwar period.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$104.7 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
$97.91 billion (2009 est.)
$94.6 billion (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$48.24 billion (2010 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
6.9% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
3.5% (2009 est.)
6% (2008 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$4,900 (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 148
$4,600 (2009 est.)
$4,500 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 12.6%
industry: 29.8%
services: 57.6% (2010 est.)
Labor force:
8.1 million (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 32.7%
industry: 26.3%
services: 41% (December 2008 est.)
Unemployment rate:
5.4% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
5.9% (2009 est.)
Population below poverty line:
23% (2008 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.1%
highest 10%: 39.7% (2004)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
49 (2007)
country comparison to the world: 27
46 (1995)
Investment (gross fixed):
23.6% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 51
Public debt:
86.7% of GDP (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
85.8% of GDP (2009 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.6% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
3% (2009 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
7.25% (December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 55
7.5% (31 December 2009)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
10.37% (December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 41
15.89% (31 December 2008)
Stock of narrow money:
$4.4 billion (31 December 2010 est)
country comparison to the world: 96
$3.628 billion (31 December 2009 est)
Stock of broad money:
$19.72 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 83
$16.41 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of domestic credit:
$18.34 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 82
$16.64 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$11.5 billion (December 2010)
country comparison to the world: 70
$8.133 billion (31 December 2009)
$4.326 billion (31 December 2008)
Agriculture - products:
rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, vegetables, fruit, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef; fish
processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, tobacco and other agricultural commodities; telecommunications, insurance, banking; tourism, shipping; clothing, textiles; cement, petroleum refining, information technology services, construction
Industrial production growth rate:
6.9% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 44
Electricity - production:
9.882 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
Electricity - consumption:
8.417 billion kWh (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 93
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 129
Oil - consumption:
90,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 80
Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 172
Oil - imports:
90,000 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 66
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 131
Current account balance:
-$1.784 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
-$291 million (2009 est.)
$7.908 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 92
$7.085 billion (2009 est.)
Exports - commodities:
textiles and apparel, tea and spices; rubber manufactures; precious stones; coconut products, fish
Exports - partners:
US 20.59%, UK 12.87%, Italy 5.51%, Germany 5.29%, India 4.54%, Belgium 4.43% (2009)
$11.6 billion (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 85
$9.186 billion (2009 est.)
Imports - commodities:
petroleum, textiles, machinery and transportation equipment, building materials, mineral products, foodstuffs
Imports - partners:
India 20.73%, China 13.45%, Singapore 7.26%, Iran 6.7%, South Korea 5.23% (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$5.63 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 66
$5.358 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Debt - external:
$17.97 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 76
$17.44 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
Exchange rates:
Sri Lankan rupees (LKR) per US dollar - 113.36 (2010), 114.95 (2009), 108.33 (2008), 110.78 (2007), 103.99 (2006)
Communications ::Sri Lanka
Telephones - main lines in use:
3.523 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 44
Telephones - mobile cellular:
15.868 million (2010)
country comparison to the world: 46
Telephone system:
general assessment: telephone services have improved significantly and are available in most parts of the country
domestic: national trunk network consists mostly of digital microwave radio relay; fiber-optic links now in use in Colombo area and fixed wireless local loops have been installed; competition is strong in mobile cellular systems and mobile cellular subscribership is increasing
international: country code - 94; the SEA-ME-WE-3 and SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cables provide connectivity to Asia, Australia, Middle East, Europe, US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Indian Ocean)
Broadcast media:
government operates 2 television channels and a radio network; multi-channel satellite and cable TV subscription services are obtainable; 8 private TV stations and about a dozen private radio stations in operation (2008)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
8,865 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 131
Internet users:
1.777 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 77
Transportation ::Sri Lanka
18 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 139
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 14
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 6
914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2010)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 3 (2010)
total: 1,449 km
country comparison to the world: 82
broad gauge: 1,449 km 1.676-m gauge (2007)
total: 91,907 km (2008)
country comparison to the world: 54
160 km (primarily on rivers in southwest) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 101
Merchant marine:
total: 22
country comparison to the world: 99
by type: bulk carrier 4, cargo 14, chemical tanker 1, petroleum tanker 3
foreign-owned: 5 (Germany 5) (2010)
Ports and terminals:
Military ::Sri Lanka
Military branches:
Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force (2010)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; 5-year service obligation (2010)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 5,493,050
females age 16-49: 5,622,632 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 4,518,582
females age 16-49: 4,701,942 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 172,081
female: 166,358 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
2.6% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 55
Transnational Issues ::Sri Lanka
Disputes - international:
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
IDPs: 460,000 (both Tamils and non-Tamils displaced due to long-term civil war between the government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)) (2007)
Trafficking in persons:
current situation: Sri Lanka is a source and destination country for men and women trafficked for the purposes of involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation; Sri Lankan men and women migrate willingly to the Persian Gulf, Middle East, and East Asia to work as construction workers, domestic servants, or garment factory workers, where some find themselves in situations of involuntary servitude when faced with restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and debt bondage; children are trafficked internally for commercial sexual exploitation and, less frequently, for forced labor
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - for a fourth consecutive year, Sri Lanka is on the Tier 2 Watch List for failing to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of human trafficking, particularly in the area of law enforcement; the government failed to arrest, prosecute, or convict any person for trafficking offenses and continued to punish some victims of trafficking for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked; Sri Lanka has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol (2008) supports I.C.E.Y. - H.O.P.E. (non-profit org)
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