Economy of Sri Lanka

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Economy of Sri Lanka
Currency Sri Lankan rupee (LKR)
Calendar year
Trade organisations
GDP US$ 80.591 Billion (World bank.) / US$ 233.637 Billion PPP[1]
GDP growth
7.4% (2014)
GDP per capita
US$ 3,818.161 (2015) / US$ 11,068.996 USD PPP[1]
GDP by sector
agriculture: 12.8%; industry: 29.2%; services: 58% (2009 est.)
6.9% (2012 est.)[2]
Population below poverty line
4.3% (2011 est.)[2]
36.4 (2013)
Labour force
Labour force by occupation
agriculture: 32.7%; industry: 26.3%; services: 41% (December 2008 est.)
Unemployment 4.3% (2011)[2]
Main industries
processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, tobacco and other agricultural commodities; telecommunications, insurance, banking; tourism, shipping; clothing, textiles; cement, petroleum refining, information technology services, construction
Exports $10.89 billion (2011 est.)
Export goods
textiles and apparel, pharmaceuticals, tea, spices, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, coconut products, rubber manufactures, fish
Main export partners
 United States 21.8%
 United Kingdom 8.3%
 India 4.5%
 Germany 4.2% (2013 est.)[5]
Imports $20.02 billion (2011 est.)
Import goods
textile fabrics, mineral products, petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and transportation equipment
Main import partners
 India 21.5%
 China 17.6%
 Singapore 10.1%
 United Arab Emirates 6.1%
 Iran 4.9% (2013 est.)[6]
FDI stock
US$1 Billion (2011)
$19.45 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Public finances
81% of GDP (2011 est.)
Revenues $8.495 billion (2011 est.)
Expenses $12.63 billion (2011 est.)
Economic aid $808 million (2006)
Standard & Poor's:[7]
BB- (Domestic)
B+ (Foreign)
B+ (T&C Assessment)
Outlook: Stable[8]
Outlook: Stable
Outlook: Positive
Foreign reserves
$7.2 billion (17 April 2011 est.)[9]

With an economy worth $80.591 billion (2015) ($233.637 billion PPP estimate),[1] and a per capita GDP of about $11,068.996 (PPP), Sri Lanka has mostly had strong growth rates in recent years.The Sri Lankan economy has seen robust annual growth at 6.4 percent over the course of 2003 to 2012, well above its regional peers. In GDP per capita terms, it is ahead of other countries in the South Asian region.Since the end of the three-decade civil conflict, Sri Lanka is now focusing on long-term strategic and structural development challenges as it strives to transition to an upper middle income country.

The main economic sectors of the country are tourism, tea export, apparel, textile, rice production and other agricultural products. In addition to these economic sectors, overseas employment contributes highly in foreign exchange, 90% of expatriate Sri Lankans reside in the Middle East.

Sri Lanka has met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving extreme poverty and is on track to meet most of the other MDGs, outperforming other South Asian countries. Sri Lanka experienced a big decline in poverty between 2002 and 2009 – from 23 percent to 9 percent of the population. Despite this pockets of poverty continue to exist. An estimated 9 percent of Sri Lankans who are no longer classified as poor live within 20 percent of the poverty line and are, thus, vulnerable to shocks which could cause them to fall back into poverty.[10]

According to economic reforms proposed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sri Lanka plans to create a knowledge based social market economy and an export-oriented economy as well as a Megapolis in the western province to rival Dubai and Singapore with a financial hub in Colombo. Creation of several business and technology development areas specialized in various sectors island wide as well as tourism zones in a planned manner is also being planned.[11] The government is also planning to lift the ban of Sri Lankan seafood imposed by the EU and regaining GSP+ trade concessions as well as joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP).[12][13]

Economic history

Since becoming independent from Britain in February 1948, the economy of the country has been affected by natural disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and a number of insurrections, such as the 1971, the 1987-89 and the 1983-2009 civil war. The government during 1970-77 period applied pro-left economic policies and practices. Between 1977 and 1994 the country came under UNP rule in which under President J.R Jayawardana Sri Lanka began to shift away from a socialist orientation in 1977. Since then, the government has been deregulating, privatizing, and opening the economy to international competition. between 1994 and 2004 under SLFP rule. In 2001, Sri Lanka faced bankruptcy, with debt reaching 101% of GDP. The impending currency crisis was averted after the country reached a hasty ceasefire agreement with the LTTE and brokered substantial foreign loans. After 2004 the UPFA government has concentrated on mass production of goods for domestic consumption such as rice, grain and other agricultural products.[14] however twenty five years of civil war slowed economic growth,[citation needed] diversification and liberalization, and the political group Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) uprisings, especially the second in the early 1980s, also caused extensive upheavals.[15]

Following the quelling of the JVP insurrection, increased privatization, economic reform, and a stress on export-oriented growth helped improve the economic performance, increasing GDP growth to 7% in 1993.

Economic growth has been uneven in the ensuing years as the economy faced a multitude of global and domestic economic and political challenges. Overall, average annual GDP growth was 5.2% over 1991-2000.

In 2001, however, GDP growth was negative 1.4%--the first contraction since independence. The economy was hit by a series of global and domestic economic problems and affected by terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and the United States.

The crises exposed the fundamental policy failures and structural imbalances in the economy and the need for reforms. The year ended in parliamentary elections in December, which saw the election of a pro-capitalism party to Parliament, while the socialism oriented Sri Lanka Freedom Party retained the Presidency.

The government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe of the United National Party has indicated a strong commitment to economic and social sector reforms, deregulation, and private sector development.

In 2002, the economy experienced a gradual recovery. Early signs of a peace dividend were visible throughout the economy—Sri Lanka has been able to reduce defense expenditures and begin to focus on getting its large, public sector debt under control.

In addition, the economy has benefited from lower interest rates, a recovery in domestic demand, increased tourist arrivals, a revival of the stock exchange, and increased foreign direct investment (FDI).

In 2002, economic growth reached 4%, aided by strong service sector growth. The agricultural sector of the economy staged a partial recovery. Total FDI inflows during 2002 were about $246 million.

The largest share of FDI has been in the services sector. Good progress was made under the Stand By Arrangement, which was resumed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These measures, together with peaceful conditions in the country, have helped restore investor confidence and created conditions for the government to embark on extensive economic and fiscal reforms and seek donor support for a poverty reduction and growth strategy.

The Mahinda Rajapakse government halted the privatization process and launched several new companies as well as re-nationalizing previous state owned cooperations.However this was seen as an attempt to get his relatives into the top poisition and amny state-owned coperations were overstaffed as well resulting in major losses and large scale fraud.[16] The negative human righst record during this time resulted in Sri Lanka losing the GSP from the EU and resulted in major losses for the Sri Lankan apparel industry.[17][18]

The resumption of the civil-war in 2005 led to a steep increase defence expenditures. The increased violence and lawlessness also prompted some donor countries to cut back on aid to the country.[2][3].

Sri Lanka has also accumulated a 9.2% deficit and the central bank has not intervened since late 2006 to print more currency [4].

A sharp rise in world petroleum prices combined with economic fallout from the civil war led to inflation that peaked 20%. However, as the civil war ended in May 2009 the economy started to grow at a higher rate of 8.0% in the year 2010.[19]

Macro-economic trend

This is a chart of trend of gross domestic product of Sri Lanka at market prices[20] by the International Monetary Fund with figures in millions of Sri Lankan Rupees.

Year Gross Domestic Product US Dollar Exchange
1980 66,167 16.53 Sri Lankan Rupees
1985 162,375 27.20 Sri Lankan Rupees
1990 321,784 40.06 Sri Lankan Rupees
1995 667,772 51.25 Sri Lankan Rupees
2000 1,257,637 77.00 Sri Lankan Rupees
2005 2,363,669 100.52 Sri Lankan Rupees

For purchasing power parity comparisons, the US Dollar is exchanged at 113.4 Sri Lankan Rupees only.

In 1977, Colombo abandoned statist economic policies and its import substitution trade policy for market-oriented policies and export-oriented trade.

Sri Lanka's most dynamic industries now are food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, telecommunications, and insurance and banking.

By 1996 plantation crops made up only 20% of exports (compared with 93% in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for 63%. GDP grew at an annual average rate of 5.5% throughout the 1990s until a drought and a deteriorating security situation lowered growth to 3.8% in 1996.

The economy rebounded in 1997-98 with growth of 6.4% and 4.7% - but slowed to 3.7% in 1999. For the next round of reforms, the central bank of Sri Lanka recommends that Colombo expand market mechanisms in nonplantation agriculture, dismantle the government's monopoly on wheat imports, and promote more competition in the financial sector.

Pre 2009 there was a continuing cloud over the economy the civil war and fighting between the Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE. However the war ended with a resounding victory for the Sri Lankan Government on 19 May 2009 with the total elimination of LTTE.

External sector

Trade account issues

In the recent past, the Sri Lankan Government has identified some key focal areas to address the external imbalances of the economy, especially with regard to reducing its high trade deficit (~15% of GDP for 2012) in order to make the economy comply with the Marshall–Lerner condition. Sri Lanka's oil import bill accounts for an estimated 27% of total imports while its pro-growth policies have resulted in an investment goods import component of 24% of total imports. These inelastic import components have led to Sri Lanka's Export goods price elasticity + Import goods price elasticity totaling less than 1, resulting in the country not complying with the Marshall–Lerner condition.

Current version: 1.0.7.
Sri Lanka Export Treemap by Product (2012) from Harvard Atlas of Economic Complexity

Some of the suggested proposals include:

  • Import substitution of investment goods and consumer goods
  • Tax concessions towards value added exports
  • Negotiating longer credit periods for oil imports
  • Allowing the external value of the currency to be determined by market forces (with minimal central bank intervention).

Key cushioning items in the current account

  • Tourism revenue (Sri Lanka's tourism revenue accounted for ~US$1bn for FY2012 with ~1mn tourist arrivals)
  • External worker remittances accounted for ~US$6bn in FY2012
  • However, as the income account reported a negative balance owing to high debt servicing payments and repatriation of income from foreign investments, the current account deficit was reported at 5.5%to 2012 GDP.

Capital account

  • Within the capital account, borrowings still account for a significant proportion as opposed to Foreign direct investments.
  • FDIs were estimated at ~US$800mn for FY2012

Overall balance (BOP)

  • The economy ended with an overall positive balance of US$151mn for 2012 (vs. a US$1,061mn deficit in FY2011)


Financial institutions

The Central Bank of Sri Lanka is the monetary authority of Sri Lanka and was established in 1950. The Central Bank is responsible for the conduct of monetary policy in the country and also has supervisory powers over the financial system.[21]

The Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) is the main stock exchange in Sri Lanka. It is one of the most modern exchanges in South Asia, providing a fully automated trading platform. The vision of the CSE is to contribute to the wealth of the nation by creating value through securities. The headquarters of the CSE have been located at the World Trade Center Towers [6] in Colombo since 1995 and it also has branches across the country in Kandy, Matara, Kurunegala, Negombo and Jaffna.[22] In 2009, after the 30 years long civil war came to an end, the CSE was the best performing stock exchange in the world.

Economic infrastructure and resources

Transportation and roads

Most Sri Lankan cities and towns are connected by the Sri Lanka Railways, the state-run railway operator. The Sri Lanka Transport Board is the state-run agency responsible for operating public bus services across the island.

The total length of Sri Lankan roads exceeds 11,000 kilometres (6,840 mi), with a vast majority of them being paved. The government has launched several highway projects to bolster the economy and national transport system, including the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway, the Colombo-Kandy (Kadugannawa) Expressway, the Colombo-Padeniya Expressway and the Outer Circular Highway to ease Colombo's traffic congestion. The government sponsored Road Development Authority (RDA) has been involved in several large-scale projects all over the island in an attempt to improve the road network in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's commercial and economic centers, primarily the capitals of the nine provinces are connected by the "A-Grade" roads which are categorically organized and marked. Furthermore, "B-Grade" roads, also paved and marked, connect district capitals within provinces.


Wind farm in Sri Lanka

The energy policy is governed by the Ministry of Power and Energy, while the production and retailing of electricity is carried out by the Ceylon Electricity Board. Energy in Sri Lanka is mostly generated by hydroelectric power stations in the Central Province.[23][24] The Sri Lankan Government and many individual "green groups" in Sri Lanka have been focusing on eco-friendly solutions to energy development and the country is undergoing changes to enforce stricter environmental policies in industries, both public and private.[citation needed]

Economic sectors


Unawatuna Beach

Tourism is one of the main industries in Sri Lanka. Major tourist attractions are focused around the islands famous beaches located in the southern and the eastern parts of the country and ancient heritage sites located in the interior of the country and resorts located in the mountainous regions of the country.[25][26] Also, due to precious stones such as rubies and sapphires being frequently found and mined in Ratnapura and its surrounding areas, they are a major tourist attraction.[27]

The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami[28] and the past civil war have reduced the tourist arrivals, however the number of tourists visiting have been recently increasing, beginning in early 2008.[29] March 2008 by 8.6% and Sri Lanka attracted 1,003,000 tourists in 2012 according to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka's 2013 roadmap.[30]

Tea industry

Tea estate in the central highlands.

The tea industry, operating under the Ministry of Public Estate Management and Development, is one of the main industries in Sri Lanka. It became the world's leading exporter in 1995 with a 23% share of global tea export, higher than Kenya's 22% share. The central highlands of the country have a low temperature climate throughout the year and annual rainfall and the humidity levels that are suitable for growing tea. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, a British planter who arrived in 1852.[31]

Recently, Sri Lanka has become one of the countries exporting fair trade tea to the UK and other countries. It is believed that such projects could reduce rural poverty.[32][33]

Apparel and textile industry

The apparel industry of the Sri Lanka mainly exports to the United States and Europe. Europe increasingly relies on Sri Lankan textiles due to the high cost of labor in Europe.[citation needed] There are about 900 factories throughout country serving companies such as Victoria's Secret, Liz Claiborne and Tommy Hilfiger.[34]


The agricultural sector of the country produces mainly rice, coconut and grain, largely for domestic consumption and occasionally for export. The tea industry which has existed since 1867 is not usually regarded as part of the agricultural sector, which is mainly focused on export rather than domestic use in the country.[35]

IT industry

Export revenue of Sri Lankan IT sector is estimated to be USD 720 million in 2013.[36][37]

Global economic relations

Exports to the United States, Sri Lanka's most important market, were valued at $1.8 billion in 2002, or 38% of total exports. For many years, the United States has been Sri Lanka's biggest market for garments, receiving more than 63% of the country's total garment exports. India is Sri Lanka's largest supplier, with imports worth $835 million in 2002. Japan, traditionally Sri Lanka's largest supplier, was its fourth-largest in 2002 with exports of $355 million. Other important suppliers include Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. The United States is the 10th-largest supplier to Sri Lanka; U.S. imports amounted to $218 million in 2002, according to Central Bank trade data.

A new port is being built in [Hambantota] in Southern Sri Lanka, funded by the Chinese government as a part of the Chinese aid to Sri Lanka. This will ease the congestion in Sri Lankan ports, particularly in Colombo. In 2009, 4456 ships visited Sri Lankan ports.

Credit rating and commercial borrowing

Sri Lanka had applied for credit ratings from international agencies in its efforts to apply for loans from international markets in 2005 after the election of Mahinda Rajapakse as president. Standard and Poor's has rated Sri Lanka a "B+" speculative rating, four grades below investment grade. Fitch has rated Sri Lanka with "BB-" which is three grades below investment grade. Standard and Poor's maintains Sri Lanka is constrained by providing widespread subsidies, a bloated public sector, transfers to loss-making state enterprises, and high interest local and international burdens [7]. Standard and Poor's estimates public sector debt has reached 95% of GDP [8], in comparison to CIA estimates of 89% of GDP [9]. Sri Lanka in mid-2007 sought to borrow $500 million from international markets to shore up the deteriorating exchange rate and reduce pressure on repayment of the domestic debt market [10]. The head of the opposition UNP, Ranil Wickremasinghe has warned that such intense borrowing is unsustainable and will not repay these loans if elected to power [11].

Foreign assistance

Sri Lanka is highly dependent on foreign assistance, and several high-profile assistance projects were launched in 2003. The most significant of these resulted from an aid conference in Tokyo in June 2003; pledges at the summit, which included representatives from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan, the European Union and the United States, totalled $4.5 billion.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2
  3. name="
  4. "Doing Business in Sri Lanka 2012". World Bank. Retrieved 2011-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Export Partners of Sri Lanka". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Import Partners of Sri Lanka". CIA World Factbook. 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Sovereigns rating list". Standard & Poor's. Retrieved 26 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Rogers, Simon; Sedghi, Ami (15 April 2011). "How Fitch, Moody's and S&P rate each country's credit rating". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Ondaatjie, Anusha; Sirimanne, Asantha (11 April 2011). "Bloomberg financials". Bloomberg.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The Spatial Distribution of Poverty in Sri Lanka" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Economic Policy Statement made by Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament". Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Govt pushing for GSP+, TPP membership - Dr. Harsha | Daily News". Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "EU delegation to meet Ranil before taking decision on ban on Sri Lankan fish products | The Sunday Times Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Asian Development Outlook 2008" (PDF). Asian Development Bank.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "The Economy of Sri Lanka". The Postcolonial Web-National University of Singapore.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Sri Lanka aiming to reduce burden of SOEs on the_people".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Bajaj, Vikas (2010-07-06). "Sri Lanka Loses E.U. Trade Benefit". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "GSP Plus suspension will cost Lanka Rs. 570 billion a year". Retrieved 2015-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Background Note: Sri Lanka->section "Economy"". U.S. State Department.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Edit/Review Countries". Retrieved 3 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Official Web site of Central Bank, Sri Lanka".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "Official Web site of Colombo Stock Exchange".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "SRI LANKA: RENEWABLE ENERGY AND CAPACITY BUILDING". Global Environment Facility.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Power Sector Assistance Evaluation" (PDF). Asian Development Bank.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Sri Lanka tourism revives slowly, International Herald Tribune
  26. "Sri Lanka tour guide". BBC Sport. 2003-11-21. Retrieved 2008-06-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "Gem Mining". National Geographic Society. 16 January 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Tsunami region seeks tourism boost". CNN. January 6, 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Aneez, Shihar (February 15, 2008). "Sri Lanka Jan tourist arrivals up 0.6 pct vs yr ago". Reuters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Sirilal, Ranga (April 16, 2008). "Sri Lanka March tourist arrivals up 8.6 pct yr/yr". Reuters.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "TED Case Studies - Ceylon Tea". American University, Washington, D.C.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade Pepper and Spice
  33. [1]
  34. "Sri Lanka seeks US free trade". BBC News. 8 April 2002. Retrieved 2010-01-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. "Sri Lanka - Agriculture".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "Sri Lankan IT/BPM Industry - 2014 Review" (PDF). Retrieved 28 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "ICT/BPO Industry In Sri Lanka" (PDF). Sri Lanka Business. Retrieved 30 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links