The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka covers a landmass of 65,525km, 1,340km of which is coastline. It is located off the South Eastern shores of India, 800km north of the equator.
Extensive faulting and erosion over time has produced a wide range of topographic features, making Sri Lanka one of the most scenic places in the world. Three zones are distinguishable by elevation, namely the Central Highlands, the plains, and the coastal belt. Most of the island's surface consists of plains between 30 and 200 meters above sea level with Pidurutalagala, Sri Lankas highest mountain, standing at 2,524 meters.
Centuries of local and European colonisation have resulted in a rich mixture of cultural diversity in Sri Lankan society. With a population of 19.9 million (est. 2003), approximately 74% are Singhalese; 18% Tamil; 7% Moor with Burgher, Malay and Vedda the remaining 1% combined. In terms of Religious beliefs/followings, 70% conform to Buddhist tradition; 15% Hindu; 8% Christian and 7% Muslim. There are three official languages, namely Singhalese, Tamil and English. Most Hindus and Muslims are Tamil speaking.
Experts say that religion in Sri Lanka is syncretism bending elements of Buddhism, Hinduism and spiritual beliefs of indigenous people, creating the uniqueness of religious character of Sri Lanka. Undoubtedly, religion became an inseparably integral part of Sri Lankan society. It is the fundamental basis of social management, politics, as well as the spiritual guidance represented as the caste system, laws, and other traditional rituals. The flourishing culture of the country throughout its history is a result of religion.
Buddhism amongst other religions in Sri Lanka, appears the most important, as it was claimed to be the religion of the majority (Singhalese) who hold sway the country's power. In Sri Lankan history, Buddhism has played the significant role in the establishment of Singhalese kingdoms since the early times, dating back to over two thousands years. Along side Buddhism, Hinduism is an important element in embodiment of Sri Lankan society. It is practiced by the Tamils in Sri Lanka whose origins trace to south India where Hinduism was predominantly practiced.
Since the late 1970s Sri Lanka diversified its export base away from agriculture. Agricultural commodities accounted for 74% of total exports in 1977, which had fallen to 15 % by 2000. Industrial export receipts rose from 14% of total export earnings in 1977 to around 75% during each of the five years 1996-2000.
To date, there continues to be an excessive dependence on textile and garment exports, which accounted for 54 % of total export earnings in 2000, and 70 % of total industrial export earnings that year. Other important industrial exports were machinery & equipment (6%), rubber based products (5%), diamonds/jewellery (4%).
In line with industrialisation, the import structure has also shifted away from consumer goods, towards intermediate and investment goods. Investment goods imports as a proportion of total imports (in value terms) rose from 12% in 1977 to 24% in 2000, whilst intermediate goods increased from 42% to 52% over the same period. Efforts in diversifying the export base away from textiles and garments over the past years have not yet been successful.
Specifically however, the clothing industry now represents a major part of the economic infrastructure in terms of GDP contribution and employment. There is an urgent need for Sri Lanka to diversify its export base to ensure long-term economic growth and employment, due to the quota system under the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing ceasing to apply from 31 December 2004.
Overall, the cumulative export to EU countries of clothing, vegetable products and precious stones amount to 70%!
Full name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Population: 19.4 million (UN, 2005)
Capital: Colombo (commercial), Sri Jayawardenepura (administrative)
Largest city: Colombo
Area: 65,610 sq km (25,332 sq miles)
Major languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English
Major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 77 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: Sri Lankan rupee
Main exports: Clothing and textiles, tea, gems, rubber, coconuts
GNI per capita: US $1,160 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .lk
International dialling code: +94