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Official Name - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Land Area - 65,610 sq km
Population - 21.3 million (2008 census)
Capital City - Colombo
Buddhist 69.1%, Hindu 7.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Christian 6.2%, Other/Unspecified 10%
Language - Sinhala (official and national), Tamil (national), English
Currency - Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR)
Exchange Rate - US$1 : 110 LKR (February 2011)
Political system - Republic with an Executive President who is Head of State, Executive, Government and Armed Forces
National government - United People’s Freedom Alliance (dominant party: Sri Lanka Freedom Party)
National legislature - Unicameral legislature; 225 members directly elected for six years by a system of modified proportional representation
Last election - 26 January (presidential) and 8 April 2010 (parliamentary)
Next election due - 2015
Head of State - President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Head of Government - President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Key Ministers - Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Minister of Agriculture
G L Peiris, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development
GDP - US$ 48.3 billion (2010 estimate, Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
GDP per capita - US$ 2,029 (2009 nominal World Bank)
Real GDP growth - 6.9% (2010 estimate, EIU)
Exports - US$ 7.1 billion (2010 estimate, EIU)
Imports - US$ 11.7 billion (2010 estimate, EIU)
Main exports - Textiles and garments, Tea, Precious/semi-precious stones
Current account - US$-1.9 billion (2010 estimate, EIU)
Gross external debt - US$ 18.4 billion (2010 estimate, EIU).
NZ Exports (FOB) - NZ$ 308 million (annual value, for year ended March 2011)
Main Exports - Milk powder 95.4%, paper 0.7%, aluminium 0.4%
NZ Imports (CIF) - NZ$ 40.2 million (annual value, for year ended March 2011)
Main Imports - Tea 48%, rubber products including tyres 14.2%, knitted apparel 5.5%
New Zealand has longstanding Commonwealth, migrant and sporting ties with Sri Lanka, and a growing trade relationship.
Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon until 1974, has been an important trading centre since ancient times. Its distinctive culture is a mix of Indian, Arab and East Asian influences. Sri Lanka was a British colony from the early 19th century until its independence in 1948, and during this period the country’s famous tea plantations were established.
Sri Lanka has a Sinhalese majority population in the south and minority Tamil communities in the north. From 1983 until 2009 there was serious armed conflict between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Following the end of the conflict in 2009 the country began to rebuild its economy.
Large parts of Sri Lanka were devastated in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, with over 35,000 fatalities and 420,000 people displaced. There was also huge displacement of civilians during the internal war, a situation that has improved recently.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa was first elected into office in 2005. Parliamentary and presidential elections were held during the first half of 2010, which returned President Rajapaksa and his centre-left People’s Alliance coalition to power. The President is able to stand for an unlimited number of terms following a constitutional referendum in September 2010.
While the economy still suffers from a large external debt, inflation, heavy trade deficits and inefficiency in the primary sector, investor confidence in Sri Lanka has returned since the end of the internal conflict. The economy grew an impressive 6.9% of GDP in 2010. Reconstruction efforts in the north are expected to spur further national growth. Exports comprise mainly textiles and tea, making the economy vulnerable to global price fluctuations. However, expected growth in the service industries education and consultancy, mainly to China and India, is predicted to stabilise overall foreign trade.
Relations between New Zealand and Sri Lanka are longstanding and friendly. Ministerial contact occurs regularly at Commonwealth and United Nations meetings. There is a large (7200) Sri Lankan community in New Zealand.
Trade between New Zealand and Sri Lanka is expanding. New Zealand exports to Sri Lanka increased significantly, from NZ$117 million in 2000 to NZ$284 million in 2010. This has largely been due to the rise in demand for dairy products (mainly milk powder).
In 1983 the New Zealand Dairy Board (now Fonterra) established a joint venture company in Sri Lanka, New Zealand Milk Products Lanka. Fonterra wholly owns the company which supplies about 70% of Sri Lanka’s milk powder requirements. Fonterra employs around 600 people in Sri Lanka and processes the milk production of over 3,000 local dairy farms.
The New Zealand Government welcomes the opportunity for peace and stability created by the end of Sri Lanka’s decades-long internal conflict. Foreign Minister Hon Murray McCully has made the following statements:
The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee reported on the “Tamil People of Sri Lanka” in 2010 (see http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/Documents/Reports/0/6/b/49DBSCH_SCR4620_1-Briefing-on-the-Tamil-people-in-Sri-Lanka.htm)
New Zealand has provided aid to Sri Lanka for a number of years although we do not now have a dedicated bilateral aid programme. The New Zealand Government has, however, committed funds on a case-by-case basis to the United Nations and partner non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Sri Lanka:
There are opportunities for New Zealand non-governmental organisations to apply for funding from New Zealand’s Aid Programme’s Sustainable Development Fund, which emphasises economic development initiatives. New Zealand’s Aid Programme administers 9 scholarships that are available for students from Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives.
New Zealand and Sri Lanka have strong sporting ties in cricket. The New Zealand national men’s team toured Sri Lanka in 2009. This followed four Sri Lankan tours to New Zealand between 2000 and 2007. Rugby is an emerging sport in Sri Lanka and links have been forged with the New Zealand rugby community.
The Safe Travel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Sri Lanka [external link].
Enquiries may be directed to Consular Division at the following numbers: Ph: +64 4 439 8000; Fax: +64 4 439 8532.