Overview: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka


Level of development:

Sri Lanka is listed as a“Medium Human Development Country” by the United Nation in 2011. (UNDP 2011) According to The Human Development Report (UNDP 2011), it ranked 97rd out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) with HDI progressively rise up to 0.691 in 2011. Its intermediated level of development is prominently showcased in its increasing per capita income, high literacy rate (92%), and high life expectancy (75 years). Sri Lanka’s economy gradually recovered from the civil war and achieved steady economic growth in recent years. Nonetheless, it was challenged by uneven regional development and ethnic conflicts which are intensified by the decade-long civil wars. Deprivation of civil liberties, infringement of human rights and humanitarian crisis are still great concerns hindering Sri Lanka from becoming more developed in near future.

Sri Lanka politics was characterized by ethnic conflicts between majority Sinhala and minority Tamil in the past few decades. The ethnic conflicts were intensified by state’s discriminatory policies and eventually end up with civil war between Sinhala government and Tamil separatists Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which fight for independence and autonomy in the northeast areas for the Tamil minorities. The prolonged ethnic conflicts have triggered a multitude of ethnic clashes over the past decades as well.

Low quality of procedural democracy
Sri Lanka has implemented parliamentary democracy after independence from British colonization. Regrettably, the quality of democracy is low given the government is notorious for depriving citizens of civil liberties, undermining independence of judiciary systems, and violating human rights. Although presidential and parliamentary elections are free and competitive, it was marred by political violence, harassments and violations of electoral laws. Minorities are deprived of equal political rights to franchise though their electoral rights are guaranteed by constitutional law. According to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report (2011), independence of judiciary systems is undermined by government’s intervention which imposes political pressure to alter the judiciary process and criminal justice. Official corruptions are rampant in Sri Lanka because the enforcement of Bribery laws is weak. (Freedom House, 2011)

Deprivation of civil liberties and violation of human rights
Freedom of expression and press is curtailed in Sri Lanka. Government infringes freedom of speech blatantly through arbitrary detention of dissidents, intimidation of human right defenders and political activists, harassment of journalists, and blocking website containing subversive viewpoints against the government. Peaceful demonstrations are suppressed by aggressive and violent policing, which end up in causalities and injuries. A number of alleged abductions, involuntary disappearances, and arbitrary arrestment in Sri Lanka, according to the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (2011).

Social and economic development:
Economic prosperity:
Sri Lanka has achieved remarkable economic growth since it initiated economic liberalization in the late 1970s, with its export-led and service-based economy bought about a large reservationof foreign exchange which stimulated rapid economic growth of the country. (Country Economic Forecast: Sri Lanka 2012) Although its economy is adversely affected by the decade-long civil war and catastrophic tsunami in 2004, its Gross domestic product (GDP) keeps rising at approximately 5% over the past five years (IMF, 2011). Industrial and service sectors share the greatest proportion of GDP while the share of agriculture decline largely because of its stagnancy. Despite the increasing national wealth, external debt of Sri Lanka has risen to highly unsustainable level due to the considerable expenditure spent in military defense and post-war reconstructions.

Uneven development across territories:
Overall, Sri Lanka has a comprehensive welfare system which provides citizens with public services such as free education and government-funded health care services. However development of rural areas has long been lagging behind that of urbanized areas due to agricultural stagnancy. There is also large disparity between the southwest and northeast areas in terms of infrastructures, social welfare system, and wealth resulted from prolonged occupation of the separatist rebels and destruction in wars. People in rural areas and northeast warzone are living below the poverty line and have limited accessibility to public services; while urban citizens are well served by social welfare such as free education and government-funded health care services. (Freedom House, 2011)

Level of development
Overall, Sri Lanka is a developing country undergoing economic and social development in a gradual manner. At the meanwhile, the pace and degree of development is challenged by restrictions on civil liberties and freedoms.