About Sri Lanka

Country Name


Conventional long form: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Conventional short form: Sri Lanka
Former: Ceylon



65,525 sq km



Sri Jayawardanapura

Commercial Capital





Sri Lanka, is a free, independent and sovereign nation with a population of 19 million (1998 mid year estimates). Legislative power is exercised by a Parliament, elected by universal franchise on proportional representation basis. A President, who is also elected by the people, exercises executive power inclusive of defense. Sri Lanka enjoys a multi party system, and the people vote to elect a new government every six years.

National Flag


National Flag of Sri Lanka is the Lion Flag. A Lion bearing a sword in its right hand is depicted in gold on red background with a yellow border. Four Bo leaves pointing inwards are at the four corners. Two vertical bands of green and orange at the mast end represent the minority ethnic groups. It is an adaptation of the standard of the last King of Sri Lanka.

National Anthem


“Sri Lanka Matha” composed by late Mr. Ananda Samarakoon. Click on the Speaker Icon to listen to a few bars of the Anthem

National Flower


The Blue Water Lily (Nymphaea stellata) is the National Flower.



19 million

Population density


309 people per sq km

Life expectancy at birth


74 female, 64 male

Literacy rate





Sinhala & Tamil English is widely spoken throughout Sri Lanka, with the exception of remote villages.

Ethnic mix


Sihalese- 74 per cent; Tamil- 18 per cent; Muslim -7 per cent; Burgher (descendants of Dutch and Portuguese colonist) and others- 1 per cent



Buddhism- 70 per cent; Hinduism- 16 per cent; Christianity- 7 per cent; Islam-7 per cent



Low Lands – tropical, average 270C Central Hills – cooler, with temperatures dropping to 140C. The south-west monsoon brings rain to the western, southern and central regions from May to July, while the north-eastern monsoon occurs in the north and east in December and January. Sri Lanka has a good climate for holiday-makers throughout the year.

Annual per capita GNP


US$ 1000



Processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, and other agricultural commodities; clothing, cement, petroleum refining, textiles, tobacco.

Agriculture – Products


Rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, roots, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, meat.



Sri Lanka follows decimal currency system in Rupees (Rs.) and cents (Cts.) with 100 cents equal to a rupee. Currency notes are available in the denominations of Rs. 10,20,50,100,200, 500 and 1000. Coins are issued in values of Cts. 25 and 50 and Rs.1,2,5 and 10. The intervention currency continuously will be the US Dollar.



Residents from countries are issued visas on arrival. Consult your local Sri Lanka embassy, consulate, tourist office or your travel agent.

Working week


Sri Lanka works a five-day week, from Monday to Friday.

Business hours


Government offices 8.30 a.m. – 4.15 p.m, Monday to Friday



9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. or 3.00 p.m. Monday to Saturday

Post office


8.30 a.m.- 5.00 p.m., Monday to Friday 8.30 a.m. – 1.00 p.m. on Saturday. The Central Mail Exchange, at D.R.Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo 10, (Telephone : 2326203) is open 24-hours.



  • Type: Republic.
  • Independence: February 4, 1948.
  • Constitution: August 31, 1978.
  • Suffrage: Universal over 18.
  • Branches: Executive–president, chief of state and head of government, elected for a 6-year term. Legislative–unicameral 225-member Parliament. Judicial–Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, subordinate courts.
  • Administrative subdivisions: Nine provinces and 25 administrative districts.
    Political parties: Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, National Freedom Front, Jathika Hela Urumaya, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Tamil National Alliance, United National Party, Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal, Sri Lankan Muslim Congress, National Unity Alliance, Ceylon Workers’ Congress, Up-Country People’s Front, several small Tamil and Muslim parties, Marxists, and others.

Economy (2008)

  • GDP: $40.7 billion.
  • Annual growth rate: 6%.
  • Natural resources: Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, and phosphate.
  • Agriculture (12% of GDP): Major products–rice, tea, rubber, coconut, and spices.
  • Services (60% of GDP): Major types–tourism, wholesale and retail trade, transport, telecom, financial services.
  • Industry (28% of GDP): Major types–garments and leather goods, rubber products, food processing, chemicals, refined petroleum, gems and jewelry, non-metallic mineral-based products, and construction.
  • Trade: Exports–$8.1 billion: garments, tea, rubber products, jewelry and gems, refined petroleum, and coconuts. Major markets–U.S. ($2 billion), U.K., India. Imports–$14 billion. Major suppliers–India, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Iran, Malaysia, Japan, U.K., U.A.E., Belgium, Indonesia, South Korea, U.S. ($283 million).

Trade and Foreign Assistance

Sri Lanka’s exports (mainly apparel, tea, rubber, gems and jewelry) are estimated at $8.1 billion and imports (mainly oil, textiles, food, and machinery) were estimated at $14 billion for 2008. The resulting large trade deficit was financed primarily by remittances from Sri Lankan expatriate workers, foreign assistance, and commercial borrowing. Sri Lanka must diversify its exports beyond garments and tea. Garment exports face increased competition since the 2005 expiration of the worldwide Multifiber Arrangement. Sri Lanka’s exports to the European Union (EU) increased sharply in 2006-2008 due to duty-free entry of goods under the EU GSP Plus program, granted in 2005 to help Sri Lanka rebuild after the 2004 tsunami. The GSP Plus program expired at the end of 2008 and was temporarily renewed subject to an investigation on human rights practices. The tea industry is challenged by a shortage of plantation labor and by growing competition.

Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka’s most important single-country market, were estimated to be around $2 billion for 2008, or 25% of total exports. As a result of the GSP Plus program, the EU as a whole is Sri Lanka’s biggest export market. For many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka’s biggest market for garments, taking almost 50% of total garment exports. India is Sri Lanka’s largest supplier, accounting for over 20% of imports. United States exports to Sri Lanka were estimated to be around $280 million for 2008, consisting primarily of wheat, electrical apparatus, textiles and specialized fabrics, medical and scientific equipment, plastics, and paper.

Sri Lanka is highly dependent on foreign assistance, with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, Japan, and other donors disbursing loans totaling $1.4 billion in 2007. Iran is becoming the largest provider of foreign assistance. During the Iranian President’s visit in April 2008, Iran committed $450 million for the Uma Oya multipurpose irrigation project. Iran is also a major lender to Sri Lanka and has provided infrastructure project loans and an interest-free credit facility for oil imports. Under this facility, Sri Lanka has imported substantial amount of oil (valued at $700 million as of June 30, 2008). Iran promised assistance for modernization of Sri Lanka’s only oil refinery, though no firm commitments are in place. China has also become a major lender for infrastructure projects, such as a new port and a coal power plant. Foreign grants amounted to $275 million in 2007. While implementation of aid projects has been spotty over the years, the government is trying to improve this record by streamlining tender processes and increasing project management skills.