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Last update: February 2009

Sri Lanka


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Basic Economic Facts


$93.32 billion (2008 est.)


GDP per head:

$4,400 (2008 est.)


Annual Growth:

5.4% (2008 est.)



21.8% (2008 est.)


Major Industries:

Agriculture, forestry, fishing (16.5%), Manufacturing (13.9%), Construction (9.1%), Mining (2.2%), Services (56.5%)


Major trading partners:

Export: $9.132 billion f.o.b (2008 est.), US 25.5%, UK 13.2%, India 6.7%, Germany 5.7%, Italy 5.1% (2007).  
Export Commodities: Textiles & garments, tea, diamonds & jewellery, petroleum.

Import:  $12.57 billion f.o.b (2008 est.), India 23.1%, Singapore 9.9%, China 8.2%, Iran 7.5%, Hong Kong 6.4% (2007).
Import Commodities: Mineral products, textiles, machinery & transport equipment, base metals.



Tourist arrivals by country of residence:

Jan-Sept 2005 - India 82,434; UK 68,493; followed by Germany, France, Australia and North America


Sri Lanka's Relations with the UK

Bilateral relations are good. Dr Kim Howells, Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office visited Sri Lanka in February 2007. Stephen Timms, Chief Secretary to the Treasury visited in September 2006 and the Rt. Hon. Paul Murphy MP in November 2006. Ian Pearson, the then Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs met the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, when he visited Sri Lanka in January 2006. Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport visited in December 2005, meeting President Mahinda Rajapakse, and the Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. HRH The Prince of Wales visited Eastern Sri Lanka to see the tsunami recovery efforts and met the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga in February 2005. Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Department for International Development, also visited Sri Lanka briefly after the tsunami.

The Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Rohitha Bogollagama visited the UK in March 2007 meeting the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett and Gareth Thomas, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development. President Rajapakse made a private visit to the UK in August 2006 during which he met the Prime Minister at Chequers. The then Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraweera, visited the UK in March 2006 meeting the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Hilary Benn, Secretary for International Development, and Tony McNulty, Minister of State at the Home Office. The former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar made an official visit to the UK in March 2005.

There are approximately 200,000 Sri Lankans settled in Britain equally divided between Sinhalese and Tamils.


UK Development Assistance

In recent years our increasing interest in helping to support a lasting resolution to the 19-year old conflict has led the UK, along with other donor countries, to focus efforts on strengthening incentives for peace and reconciliation. A joint DFID/FCO/MOD strategy entitled 'UK Support for Peace and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka' was agreed in early 2002 and identifies a number of areas where the UK Government may be able to make a worthwhile contribution. These are:

  • Encouraging key donors to adopt conflict sensitive approaches;
  • reducing communal tensions through greater adherence to human rights standards;
  • supporting greater preparedness for peace negotiations, recovery and reconstruction;
  • strengthening civil society to contribute more effectively to reconciliation;
  • helping to make national and state institutions more accountable and enabled to support the peace process;
  • supporting the development of education policies and practice that contribute to social harmony through improved quality and participation and;
  • improving the livelihood and security of those affected by conflict.

Sri Lanka is a middle income country with approximately 1 million people (6%) of the population living in poverty. The major cause of poverty is the long running conflict, so poverty reduction is dependent upon achieving lasting peace.

The Department for International Development (DFID) working with the World Bank and Government of Sri Lanka has contributed to the development of a National Education Sector Strategy aimed at maximising the role of education to social harmony and peace building.

DFID have contributed 2.6m towards de-mining activities in Sri Lanka, 6.25m to UNICEF's Children Affected by Armed Conflict Programme, 1.96m to civil society organisations to promote conflict transformation, 3.5m to OXFAM to reduce the number of children suffering as a result of the conflict, and 3.3m to Save the Children (Sri Lanka) to increase respect and realisation of child rights.

Following the tsunami on 26 December, the UK Government committed 75million for immediate relief and recovery in the affected area (including Sri Lanka), and at the end of March 2005 announced a further 65 million for longer term reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The UK's humanitarian response in Sri Lanka has been channelled through United Nations agencies, the Red Cross movement, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as direct inventions aimed at addressing urgent requirements, and in support of the United Nations' assessment, information dissemination and coordination role.

UK aid has contributed to projects including health, water and sanitation, tracing of missing persons, food distribution, shelter related activities including housing repairs, mental health and psycho-social support, restoration of livelihoods, consolidation and air freighting of drugs donated by UK pharmaceutical industry.


Trade and Investment with the UK

UK imports from Sri Lanka have consistently exceeded UK exports to Sri Lanka. Exports have declined during the period 2001 to 2004 from 142.4 million to 138.8 million and imports have steadily increased from 400.8 million to 466.9 million during the period 2001 to 2004. The UK's net investment in Sri Lanka has averaged some 50 million per annum over the last 20 years. The UK is the largest European investor in Sri Lanka and second overall in terms of projects. Further progress in the peace process would lead to more opportunities for British companies in Sri Lanka.


Cultural Relations with the UK

The British Council has English Teaching Centres in Colombo (one of the fastest growing in the network with well over 3000 students) and Kandy, and is involved in English language projects throughout the island. It also runs busy libraries at the teaching centres, and maintains a lively arts programme.

The Council runs an education information service that offers detailed information on all aspects of the British education system, and administers exams in Colombo and Kandy.

In Sri Lanka the Council also works closely with the Ministry of Education on its education reform agenda, particularly at Primary level.


Entry Clearance

British citizens require a passport valid for at least two months beyond the expiry date of the visa, which is issued on arrival allowing for a tourist stay of up to 30 days. A return ticket or proof of onward travel is also required.


Public / Statutory holidays

See more on public holiday's page.


Human Rights

Sri Lanka is a signatory to all six core human rights instruments.

The Sri Lankan government has taken steps to improve its very poor human rights record of the 1980's and 1990's. Significant improvements have been made, but problems do remain. There are continued reports of rape and torture in custody, although these have fallen since the ceasefire. However, there are continuing serious human rights abuses including assassinations of political opponents, abductions and extortion also, the recruitment and/or use of child soldiers in violation of applicable international law. There have been incidents of attacks on religious minorities.

In Autumn 2006 President Rajapakse announced the establishment of a special Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the most egregious allegations of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka over the preceding 12 months. The President mandated that a parallel group, the Independent International Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), should also be created with a remit to oversee the work of the CoI and ensure compliance with international norms.

The IIGEP met for the first time on 12 and 13 February 2007. The Chair is the renowned Indian senior judge, Mr Justice Bhagwati. Sir Nigel Rodley, an eminent British human rights academic and practitioner is a member of the IIGEP. An experienced British criminal investigator, who is has worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and with Louise Arbour, now UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is a member of the IIGEP Secretariat.

Source: Home Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Last update: February 2009 

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