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World Mission

Sri Lanka

Basic info

  • Area: 65,610 sq km
  • Population: 22,409,381
  • Infant mortality: 8.4 deaths/1,000 live births
  • Life expectancy: 76.9 years
  • Urbanisation: 18.5% of total population
  • Literacy: 92.6%


The first Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C., probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced circa 250 B.C., and the first kingdoms developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (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 Portuguese controlled the coastal areas of the island in the 16th century followed by the Dutch in the 17th century. The island was ceded to the British in 1796, became a crown colony in 1802, and was formally united under British rule by 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Prevailing tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted into war in July 1983. Fighting between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued for over a quarter century. Although Norway brokered peace negotiations that led to a ceasefire in 2002, the fighting slowly resumed and was again in full force by 2006. The government defeated the LTTE in May 2009. During the post-conflict years under President Mahinda RAJAPAKSA, the government enacted an ambitious program of infrastructure development projects, many of which were financed by loans from the Government of China. In 2015, a new coalition government headed by President Maithripala SIRISENA of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Prime Minister Ranil WICKREMESINGHE of the United National Party came to power with pledges to advance economic, governance, anti-corruption, reconciliation, justice, and accountability reforms. The government co-sponsored UN Human Rights Council resolutions articulating many of these commitments in 2015 and 2017, though progress on implementation has been uneven. Parliamentary discussions have yet to resolve differences on constitutional revision. Impunity for human rights violations and corruption remains a problem. According to government sources, 891,125 conflict-era internally displaced persons had resettled by October 2017.


The climate is tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October). The terrain is mostly low, flat to rolling plain with mountains in south-central interior.


Sri Lanka is attempting to sustain economic growth while maintaining macroeconomic stability under the IMF program it began in 2016. The government's high debt payments and bloated civil service, which have contributed to historically high budget deficits, remain a concern. Government debt is about 79% of GDP and remains among the highest of the emerging markets. In the coming years, Sri Lanka will need to balance its elevated debt repayment schedule with its need to maintain adequate foreign exchange reserves. In May 2016, Sri Lanka regained its preferential trade status under the European Union’s Generalized System of Preferences Plus, enabling many of its firms to export products, including its top export garments, tax free to the EU. In 2017, Parliament passed a new Inland Revenue Act in an effort to increase tax collection and broaden the tax base in response to recommendations made under its IMF program. In November 2017, the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering and terrorist financing listed Sri Lanka as non-compliant, but reported subsequently that Sri Lanka had made good progress in implementing an action plan to address deficiencies. Tourism has experienced strong growth in the years since the resolution of the government's 26-year conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. In 2017, the government promulgated plans to transform the country into a knowledge-based, export-oriented Indian Ocean hub by 2025.

Ethnic groups

Ethnic Groups(%)



Sri Lankan Tamil


Sri Lankan Moors


Indian Tamil






Buddhist (official)






Roman Catholic


other Christian



  • 74%

    Sinhala (official and national language)

  • 18%

    Tamil (official and national language)

  • 8%


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