The government of Sri Lanka is divided into several branches. It is governed by a democratically elected president and a 225-member parliament. The president has the power to appoint the prime minister, cabinet members, and chief justice. The president can dissolve the parliament after four and a half years. The constitution establishes a socialist democratic republic with a presidential system. The president is also the chief executive and the commander in chief of the armed forces.
Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is generally non-aligned, but it has established closer relations with Western countries, particularly the United States, since 1977. The country also actively participates in multilateral diplomacy, such as the United Nations, to foster democracy and promote development in the developing world. As a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Sri Lanka is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Asian Development Bank, and the Colombo Plan. In addition, it participates in the United Nations, the World Bank, and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
Foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations have proliferated in Sri Lanka, particularly since 1977. These organizations provide welfare services and promote social agendas. Unlike religious organizations, local civil organizations depend on the political sector of the country. Interestingly, two groups – the ultraleft Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – have been able to attract significant numbers of members from the lower classes.
The country’s economy is dominated by a range of industries. Sri Lanka exports tea, rubber, coconuts, and locally mined gems. Imports include textiles and apparel, foods and beverages, machinery, and pharmaceuticals. Other industries include construction, transportation, education, and energy production. Approximately $5 billion of goods are imported from Japan and over half a billion from India. Its tourism industry also plays a vital role in the economy.
While the majority of land in Sri Lanka is owned by the government or leased to private citizens, religious establishments own substantial tracts of land. Historically, land was passed down from parents to sons, but the majority of landholdings now goes to sons. The sale of land and housing lots has also fueled a growth industry. The sale of agricultural land has been relatively limited, but subdivision of land has created small paddy fields.
Sri Lanka’s cultural life has a long and rich history of both oral and written literature. The country has been home to the fiveth century C.E. when Sinhala and Tamil writers began recording religious stories and secular topics. Today, the country hosts the Asia Cup tournament and co-hosted the Cricket World Cup with Pakistan and India in 1996. In addition to cricket, Sri Lanka produces a diverse range of musical genres. The country’s traditional drumming and religious chants are common. Work songs and popular music are also produced in Sri Lanka. Despite the political situation, these performances are often well attended.
The government of Sri Lanka continues to address the problems that plague the country. The country’s economy has grown by over five percent per year, with the government using water cannons and tear gas to put down the protests. But a number of other problems have caused the economy to slump. Sri Lanka’s government is struggling to meet its budget, which is 3% of GDP. The government has a large fiscal deficit, which has led to high inflation.