Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia. Known until 1972 as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest across the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait, and the Maldives to the southwest.
The service sector is the largest component of GDP at almost 60%. In 2010, service sector growth increased to 8% from about 3% in 2009. Tourism, shipping, aviation, telecom, trading, and financial services were the main contributors to growth. Public administration and defense expenditures increased in recent years due to hostilities, and there has been an expansion of public sector employment.
Sri Lanka is a lower-middle income developing nation with a gross domestic product of about $50 billion (official exchange rate). This translates into a per capita income of $5,100 (purchasing power parity). Sri Lanka's 91% literacy rate in local languages and life expectancy of 75 years rank well above those of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. English language ability is relatively high, but has declined significantly since the 1970s.
The trade weighted average tariff rate is 6.4 percent, and extensive non-tariff barriers further constrain freedom to trade. Inadequate infrastructure and burdensome bureaucracy hinder much-needed dynamic growth in private investment.
The judicial system is weak and vulnerable to political interference. The commercial court system is subject to extensive delays that often lead investors to pursue out-of-court settlements. A fairly reliable registration system exists for recording private property, including land and buildings, but fraud and forged documents are problems. Mistrust of government is considerable due to widespread public-sector corruption.
Historically, industry centered chiefly around the processing of agricultural products, but textiles and garments are now Sri Lanka's biggest export.
Sri Lanka is governed under the constitution of 1978. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is popularly elected for a six-year term and is eligible for a second term. Members of the 225-seat unicameral Parliament are also elected by popular vote for six-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into nine provinces.
As Sri Lankan population is composed with multi-ethnic group, the religion in Sri Lanka is inevitably diverse. Various communities in Sri Lanka recognize four of the world's major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. The majority people of the country, the Sinhalese are adherent to Buddhism while other ethnic groups like Tamils, Moors, Burghers, and others practice Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, respectively.
Since Sri Lanka endows a diversity of ethnic groups, language spoken in the country is various. The two major ones widely used are, however, Sinhala language spoken by the Sinhalese majority and Tamil language used by the Tamils.
But it has been scarred by a long and bitter civil war arising out of ethnic tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority in the northeast.
Lying off the southern tip of India, the tropical island of Sri Lanka has attracted visitors for centuries with its natural beauty.