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Flag of Sri Lanka
Map of Sri Lanka
Introduction Sri Lanka
The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C., probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced beginning in about the mid-3rd century B.C. and a great civilization developed at such cities as Anuradhapura (kingdom from c. 200 B.C. to c. 1000 A.D.) and Polonnaruwa (c. 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty seized power in the north and established a Tamil kingdom. Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796 and became a crown colony in 1802. As Ceylon it became independent in 1948; its name was changed in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in an ethnic war that continues to fester.
Geography Sri Lanka
Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India
Geographic coordinates:
7 00 N, 81 00 E
Map references:
total: 65,610 sq km
water: 870 sq km
land: 64,740 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than West Virginia
Land boundaries:
0 km
1,340 km
Maritime claims:
contiguous zone: 24 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
continental shelf: 200 NM or to the edge of the continental margin
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: 13.43%
permanent crops: 15.78%
other: 70.79% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
6,510 sq km (1998 est.)
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, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, 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
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; as of mid-1999, approximately 66,000 were housed in 133 refugee camps in south India, another 40,000 lived outside the Indian camps, and more than 200,000 Tamils have sought refuge in the West (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 25.6% (male 2,559,246; female 2,446,393)
15-64 years: 67.7% (male 6,446,320; female 6,802,515)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 628,398; female 693,911) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.85% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
16.36 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
6.45 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
-1.39 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.91 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
15.65 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 72.35 years
female: 75 years (2002 est.)
male: 69.83 years
Total fertility rate:
1.93 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.07% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
7,500 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
490 (1999 est.)
noun: Sri Lankan(s)
adjective: Sri Lankan
Ethnic groups:
Sinhalese 74%, Tamil 18%, Moor 7%, Burgher, Malay, and Vedda 1%
Buddhist 70%, Hindu 15%, Christian 8%, Muslim 7% (1999)
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: 90.2%
male: 93.4%
female: 87.2% (1995 est.)
Government Sri Lanka
Country name:
conventional long form: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
conventional short form: Sri Lanka
former: Serendib, Ceylon
Government type:
Colombo; note - Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte is the legislative capital
Administrative divisions:
8 provinces; Central, North Central, North Eastern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western; note - North Eastern province may have been divided in two - Northern and Eastern
4 February 1948 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 February (1948)
adopted 16 August 1978
Legal system:
a highly complex mixture of English common law, Roman-Dutch, Muslim, Sinhalese, and customary law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA (since 12 November 1994); note - Ranil WICKREMASINGHE (since 9 December 2001) is the prime minister; in Sri Lanka the president is considered both the chief of state and head of government, in contrast to the more common practice of dividing the roles between the president and the prime minister when both offices exist
head of government: President Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA (since 12 November 1994); note - Ranil WICKREMASINGHE (since 9 December 2001) is the prime minister; in Sri Lanka the president is considered both the chief of state and head of government, in contrast to the more common practice of dividing the roles between the president and the prime minister when both offices exist
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president in consultation with the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 21 December 1999 (next to be held NA December 2005)
election results: Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA reelected president; percent of vote - Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA (PA) 51%, Ranil WICKREMASINGHE (UNP) 42%, other 7%
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament (225 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of a modified proportional representation system by district to serve six-year terms)
elections: last held 7 December 2001 (next to be held NA December 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party or electoral alliance - UNP, SLMC and CWC 46.8%, PA and EPDP 38%, JVP 9.1%, Tamil National Alliance 3.89%, PLOTE 0.19%; seats by party or electoral alliance - UNP, SLMC and CWC 114, PA and EPDP 79, JVP 16, Tamil National Alliance 15, PLOTE 1
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court; Court of Appeals; judges for both courts are appointed by the president
Political parties and leaders:
All Ceylon Tamil Congress or ACTC [KUMARGURUPARAM]; Ceylon Workers Congress or CWC [Arumugam THONDAMAN]; Communist Party or CP [D. GUNASEKERA]; Democratic United National (Lalith) Front or DUNLF [Shrimani ATULATHMUDALI]; Eelam People's Democratic Party or EPDP [Douglas DEVANANDA]; Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front or EPRLF [Suresh PREMACHANDRAN]; Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or JVP [Tilvan SILVA]; National Unity Alliance or NUA [Ferial ASHRAFF]; People's Alliance or PA [Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA]; People's Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam or PLOTE [leader NA]; Sihala Urumaya or SU [Tilak KARUNARATNE]; Sri Lanka Freedom Party or SLFP [Chandrika Bandaranaike KUMARATUNGA]; Sri Lanka Muslim Congress or SLMC [Rauff HAKEEM]; Sri Lanka Progressive Front or SLPF [P. Nelson PERERA]; Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization or TELO [SABARATNAM]; Tamil National Alliance or TNA [Nadarajah RAVIRAJ]; Tamil United Liberation Front or TULF [R. SAMPATHAN]; United National Party or UNP [Ranil WICKREMASINGHE]; Upcountry People's Front or UPF [P. CHANDRASEKARAN]; several ethnic Tamil and Muslim parties, represented in either Parliament or provincial councils
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Buddhist clergy; labor unions; Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE [Velupillai PRABHAKARAN](insurgent group fighting for a separate state); 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 Devinda R. SUBASINGHE
consulate(s): New York
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles
FAX: [1] (202) 232-7181
telephone: [1] (202) 483-4025 (through 4028)
chancery: 2148 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador E. Ashley WILLS
embassy: 210 Galle Road, Colombo 3
mailing address: P. O. Box 106, Colombo
telephone: [94] (1) 448007
FAX: [94] (1) 437345
Flag description:
yellow with two panels; the smaller hoist-side panel has two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and orange; the other panel is a large dark red rectangle with a yellow lion holding a sword, and there is a yellow bo leaf in each corner; the yellow field appears as a border around the entire flag and extends between the two panels
Economy Sri Lanka
Economy - overview:
In 1977, Colombo abandoned statist economic policies and its import substitution trade policy for market-oriented policies and export-oriented trade. Sri Lanka's most dynamic sectors now are food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, telecommunications, and insurance and banking. By 1996 plantation crops made up only 20% of exports (compared with 93% in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for 63%. GDP grew at an average annual rate of 5.5% throughout the 1990s until a drought and a deteriorating security situation lowered growth to 3.8% in 1996. The economy rebounded in 1997-2000 with average growth of 5.3%. But 2001 saw the first contraction in the country's history, due to a combination of power shortages, severe budgetary problems, the global slowdown, and continuing civil strife.
purchasing power parity - $62.7 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-1% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $3,250 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 21%
industry: 27%
services: 52% (2000)
Population below poverty line:
22% (1997 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 4%
highest 10%: 28% (1995)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
34 (1995)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
14.2% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
6.6 million (1998)
Labor force - by occupation:
services 45%, agriculture 38%, industry 17% (1998 est.)
Unemployment rate:
7.7% (2001)
revenues: $2.8 billion
expenditures: $4.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2001 est.)
rubber processing, tea, coconuts, and other agricultural commodities; clothing, cement, petroleum refining, textiles, tobacco
Industrial production growth rate:
1.4% (2001)
Electricity - production:
6.619 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 32%
hydro: 68%
other: 0% (2000)
nuclear: 0%
Electricity - consumption:
6.156 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef
$4.9 billion f.o.b. (2001)
Exports - commodities:
textiles and apparel 15%, tea, diamonds, coconut products, petroleum products
Exports - partners:
US 39%, UK 13%, Middle East 8%, Germany 4%, Japan 4% (2000)
$6 billion f.o.b. (2001)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, textiles, petroleum, foodstuffs
Imports - partners:
Japan 9%, India 8%, Hong Kong 7%, Singapore 7%, South Korea 5% (2000)
Debt - external:
$9.9 billion (2000)
Economic aid - recipient:
$577 million (1998) (1998)
Sri Lankan rupee (LKR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Sri Lankan rupees per US dollar - 93.383 (January 2002), 89.383 (2001), 77.005 (2000), 70.635 (1999), 64.450 (1998), 58.995 (1997)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Sri Lanka
Telephones - main lines in use:
494,509 (1998)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
228,604 (1999)
Telephone system:
general assessment: very inadequate domestic service, particularly in rural areas; likely improvement with privatization of national telephone company and encouragement to private investment; good international service (1999)
domestic: national trunk network consists mostly of digital microwave radio relay; fiber-optic links now in use in Colombo area and two fixed wireless local loops have been installed; competition is strong in mobile cellular systems; telephone density remains low at 2.6 main lines per 100 persons (1999)
international: submarine cables to Indonesia and Djibouti; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) (1999)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 26, FM 45, shortwave 1 (1998)
3.85 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
21 (1997)
1.53 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
5 (2000)
Internet users:
121,500 (2001)
Transportation Sri Lanka
total: 1,463 km
broad gauge: 1,404 km 1.676-m gauge
narrow gauge: 59 km 0.762-m gauge (2001)
total: 11,285 km
paved: 10,721 km
unpaved: 564 km (1998 est.)
430 km (navigable by shallow-draft craft)
crude oil and petroleum products 62 km (1987)
Ports and harbors:
Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Trincomalee
Merchant marine:
total: 18 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 137,321 GRT/233,367 DWT
ships by type: bulk 1, cargo 15, container 1, petroleum tanker 1, includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Germany 9, Hong Kong 1, United Arab Emirates 1 (2002 est.)
15 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 14
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 7
914 to 1,523 m: 6 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 1 1
under 914 m: 1 (2002)
Military Sri Lanka
Military branches:
Army, Navy, Air Force, Police Force
Military manpower - military age:
18 years of age (2002 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 5,347,153 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 4,148,825 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 193,522 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$719 million (FY98)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
4.2% (FY98)
Transnational Issues Sri Lanka
Disputes - international:

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003