Bahamas, The

Introduction Lucayan Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher COLUMBUS first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US and Europe, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.

Although the area may have been populated previously, the seafaring Taino people moved into the southern Bahamas around the 7th century from Hispaniola and Cuba. These people came to be known as the Lucayans. There were an estimated 40,000+ Lucayans at the time of Columbus' arrival in 1492.

Christopher Columbus' first landfall in the New World was on an island he named San Salvador (known to the Lucayans as Guanahahani) which may be Samana Cay or present-day San Salvador Island (also known as Watling's Island), in the central part of the Bahamas Archipelago. Here, Columbus made contact with the Lucayans and exchanged goods with them.

Bahamian Lucayans were later taken to Hispaniola as slaves; and within two decades, Lucayan societies ceased to exist due to forced labour, warfare, massacre, disease, emigration and intermarriage. After the Lucayan population was eliminated, the Bahamian islands were virtually unoccupied until English settlers led by William Sayle came from Bermuda seeking religious freedom in 1647. The Eleutheren Adventurers established settlements on the island of Eleuthera, which means Freedom. They later discovered New Providence and named it Sayle's Island. To survive, the settlers looted passing ships.

William Sayle asked King Charles II to appoint a group of Lord Proprietors to the islands. They rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country. November 1st, 1670 the islands were granted to William earl of Craven, John Lord Burkley, Christopher Duke of Albermarle, St. George Carteret, Sir Peter Colleton and Anthony Lord Ashley. These Proprietors never visited the islands, but they appointed Governors to rule for them.

The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1717. Some 8,000 American Loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas after 1783 from New York, Florida and the Carolinas. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. This led to many fugitive slaves from the US braving the perils of the Atlantic for the promise of a free life in the Bahamas.

On May 8, 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, Count Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas. The Bahamas were returned to Britain as part of the peace negotiations ending the American war.

The British made the islands internally self-governing in 1964. In 1973, the Bahamas became fully independent, but retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1967, Lynden Pindling became the first black premier of the colony, and in 1968 became prime minister. Another black Bahamian, Sir Milo Butler, was appointed governor-general upon Independence. Based on the pillars of tourism and offshore financial services, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s. Today, the country enjoys the third highest per capita income in the hemisphere. Despite this, the country faces significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, international narcotics trafficking, correctional facilities and illegal immigration.

The origin of the name "Bahamas" is unclear. It is thought to derive from the Spanish baja mar, meaning "shallow seas"; others trace the name to the Lucayan word for Grand Bahama Island, ba-ha-ma "large upper middle land".

Geography Location: Caribbean, chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba
Geographic coordinates: 24 15 N, 76 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 13,940 sq km
land: 10,070 sq km
water: 3,870 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 3,542 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
Climate: tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream
Terrain: long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Alvernia, on Cat Island 63 m
Natural resources: salt, aragonite, timber, arable land
Land use: arable land: 0.58%
permanent crops: 0.29%
other: 99.13% (2005)
Irrigated land: 10 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: NA
Natural hazards: hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage
Environment - current issues: coral reef decay; solid waste disposal
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba; extensive island chain of which 30 are inhabited

The Bahamas is an independent country and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom.

Queen Elizabeth II is the ceremonial head of state, represented by a Bahamian governor-general. The Prime Minister is the head of government and is the leader of the party with the most seats in the elected House of Assembly. The current Governor General is Arthur Dion Hanna and the current Prime Minister is Hubert Alexander Ingraham. The upper house (the Senate) is appointed. Executive power is exercised by the cabinet. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament.

The party system is dominated by the centre-left Progressive Liberal Party and the centre-right Free National Movement. A handful of splinter parties have been unable to win election to parliament. These parties include the Bahamas Democratic Movement, the Coalition for Democratic Reform and the Bahamian Nationalist Party.

Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. Although The Bahamas is not geographically located in the Caribbean, it is a member of the Caribbean Community. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Jurisprudence is based on English common law.

People Population: 305,655
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 27% (male 41,268/female 41,186)
15-64 years: 66.5% (male 99,961/female 103,230)
65 years and over: 6.5% (male 8,176/female 11,834) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 28.1 years
male: 27.3 years
female: 28.9 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.602% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 17.3 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.13 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.15 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.002 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.968 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.691 male(s)/female
total population: 0.956 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 24.17 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 29.58 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 18.65 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 65.66 years
male: 62.37 years
female: 69.02 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.15 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 3% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 5,600 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Bahamian(s)
adjective: Bahamian
Ethnic groups: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%
Religions: Baptist 35.4%, Anglican 15.1%, Roman Catholic 13.5%, Pentecostal 8.1%, Church of God 4.8%, Methodist 4.2%, other Christian 15.2%, none or unspecified 2.9%, other 0.8% (2000 census)
Languages: English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.6%
male: 94.7%
female: 96.5% (2003 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Commonwealth of The Bahamas
conventional short form: The Bahamas
Government type: constitutional parliamentary democracy
Capital: name: Nassau
geographic coordinates: 25 05 N, 77 21 W
time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins second Sunday in March; ends first Sunday in November
Administrative divisions: 21 districts; Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Exuma, Freeport, Fresh Creek, Governor's Harbour, Green Turtle Cay, Harbour Island, High Rock, Inagua, Kemps Bay, Long Island, Marsh Harbour, Mayaguana, New Providence, Nichollstown and Berry Islands, Ragged Island, Rock Sound, Sandy Point, San Salvador and Rum Cay
Independence: 10 July 1973 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 10 July (1973)
Constitution: 10 July 1973
Legal system: based on English common law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Arthur D. HANNA (since 1 February 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Hubert A. INGRAHAM (since 4 May 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the prime minister's recommendation
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; the prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (16 seats; members appointed by the governor general upon the advice of the prime minister and the opposition leader to serve five-year terms) and the House of Assembly (41 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms); the government may dissolve the Parliament and call elections at any time
elections: last held 2 May 2007 (next to be called by May 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - FNM 49.86%, PLP 47.02%; seats by party - FNM 23, PLP 18
Judicial branch: Privy Council (London); Courts of Appeal; Supreme (lower) Court; magistrates courts
Political parties and leaders: Free National Movement or FNM [Hubert INGRAHAM]; Progressive Liberal Party or PLP [Perry CHRISTIE]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt (signatory), ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITSO, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Cornelius A. SMITH
chancery: 2220 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 319-2660
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2668
consulate(s) general: Miami, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Ned L. SIEGEL
embassy: 42 Queen Street, Nassau
mailing address: local or express mail address: P. O. Box N-8197, Nassau; US Department of State, 3370 Nassau Place, Washington, DC 20521-3370
telephone: [1] (242) 322-1181, 356-3229 (after hours)
FAX: [1] (242) 356-0222
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of aquamarine (top), gold, and aquamarine, with a black equilateral triangle based on the hoist side

Bahamian culture is a hybrid of African and European influences. Perhaps its greatest expression is a rhythmic form of music called Junkanoo. Aside from Junkanoo, other indigenous forms of music include rake and scrape, calypso, and a unique form of hymnal, known internationally through the music of the late Joseph Spence. Marching bands are also an important part of life, playing at funerals, weddings and other ceremonial events. The country's first movie, Filthy Rich Gangster, was written and directed by a Bahamian named Jimmy Curry, who also wrote, produced and performed the regions first Hip Hop and Junkanoo Hip Hop records. Curry was also the first Bahamian signed to legendary American record label Sugar Hill Records. His firm is also re-releasing several of their movies including: Filthy Rich Gangster; Gun Lordz and others. In addition to movie and television productions, he has produced concerts, sporting events, and is the founder of the Bahamian American Arts Festival.

In the less developed outer islands - islands outside the capital Nassau, known as the "Out Islands" or "Family Islands" - crafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called "straw", is also plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items today.

Regattas are important social events in many family island settlements. They usually feature one or more days of sailing by old-fashioned work boats, as well as an onshore festival.

Some settlements have festivals associated with the traditional crop or food of that area, such as the "Pineapple Fest" in Gregory Town, Eleuthera or the "Crab Fest" on Andros. Other significant traditions include story telling.

A strongly religious country, there are more places of worship per person in the Bahamas than many other nations in the world. The islands are overwhelmingly Anglican Christian (over 80%). Baptists form the largest denomination (about one third), followed by the Roman Catholic churches. As of 2006, one out of every 191 Bahamian citizens in the population was a Jehovah's Witness.[4]

A few people, especially in the southern and eastern islands, practice Obeah, a spiritistic religion similar to Voodoo. Voodoo is also practiced by the large number of people from Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Officially, the national sport of the Bahamas is cricket[5] [6] [7]. Though still the most popular, its popularity has declined. Sailing and Track and field athletics are also popular sports in the country. Football and rugby also have strong followings while American sports such as basketball, softball, baseball and American football are gaining in popularity.

Bahamians have won Olympic gold medals in sailing (Sir Durwood Knowles and Cecile Cooke in 1964) and track and field (Tonique Williams-Darling in the 400 m in 2004 and the women's relay team in the 4×100m in 2000).

Economy Economy - overview: The Bahamas is one of the wealthiest Caribbean countries with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism together with tourism-driven construction and manufacturing accounts for approximately 60% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs half of the archipelago's labor force. Steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences had led to solid GDP growth in recent years, but tourist arrivals have been on the decline since 2006. Financial services constitute the second-most important sector of the Bahamian economy and, when combined with business services, account for about 36% of GDP. However, since December 2000, when the government enacted new regulations on the financial sector, many international businesses have left The Bahamas. Manufacturing and agriculture combined contribute approximately a tenth of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. Overall growth prospects in the short run rest heavily on the fortunes of the tourism sector. Tourism, in turn, depends on growth in the US, the source of more than 80% of the visitors.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $6.925 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $6.586 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.8% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $22,700 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 3%
industry: 7%
services: 90% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 181,900 (2006)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 5%, industry 5%, tourism 50%, other services 40% (2005 est.)
Unemployment rate: 7.6% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line: 9.3% (2004)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: 27% (2000)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.4% (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.03 billion
expenditures: $1.03 billion (FY04/05)
Agriculture - products: citrus, vegetables; poultry
Industries: tourism, banking, cement, oil transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipe
Industrial production growth rate: NA%
Electricity - production: 1.894 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 1.762 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - consumption: 26,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: transshipments of 41,290 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 68,250 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports: $674 million (2006)
Exports - commodities: mineral products and salt, animal products, rum, chemicals, fruit and vegetables
Exports - partners: Spain 22.3%, US 19.8%, Poland 13.5%, Germany 13%, UK 5.7%, Guatemala 4.9% (2006)
Imports: $2.401 billion (2006)
Imports - commodities: machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, mineral fuels; food and live animals
Imports - partners: US 24.7%, Brazil 15.7%, Japan 13.1%, South Korea 7.8%, Spain 6.2% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $4.78 million (2004)
Debt - external: $342.6 million (2004 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Bahamian dollar (BSD)
Currency code: BSD
Exchange rates: Bahamian dollars per US dollar - 1 (2007), 1 (2006), 1 (2005), 1 (2004), 1 (2003)
Fiscal year: 1 July - 30 June
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 133,100 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 227,800 (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern facilities
domestic: totally automatic system; highly developed; the Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network links 14 of the islands and is designed to satisfy increasing demand for voice and broadband internet services
international: country code - 1-242; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber-optic submarine cable that provides links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth station - 2 (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2006)
Radios: 215,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 2 (2006)
Televisions: 67,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .bs
Internet hosts: 248 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 19 (2000)
Internet users: 103,000 (2005)
Transportation Airports: 62 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 24
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 38
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 11
under 914 m: 22 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 2,693 km
paved: 1,546 km
unpaved: 1,147 km (1999)
Merchant marine: total: 1,213 ships (1000 GRT or over) 40,403,455 GRT/54,276,183 DWT
by type: barge carrier 1, bulk carrier 225, cargo 240, chemical tanker 84, combination ore/oil 13, container 72, liquefied gas 49, livestock carrier 2, passenger 117, passenger/cargo 34, petroleum tanker 196, refrigerated cargo 118, roll on/roll off 18, specialized tanker 4, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 39
foreign-owned: 1,134 (Angola 6, Australia 3, Belgium 15, Bermuda 12, Brazil 1, Canada 13, China 9, Croatia 1, Cuba 1, Cyprus 20, Denmark 66, Finland 8, France 43, Germany 40, Greece 214, Hong Kong 3, Iceland 1, Indonesia 3, Ireland 2, Italy 1, Japan 62, Jordan 2, Kenya 1, Malaysia 11, Monaco 11, Montenegro 2, Netherlands 24, Nigeria 2, Norway 232, Philippines 1, Poland 15, Russia 5, Saudi Arabia 15, Singapore 9, Slovenia 1, South Africa 1, Spain 11, Sweden 5, Switzerland 2, Taiwan 1, Thailand 1, Trinidad and Tobago 1, Turkey 5, UAE 20, UK 68, US 162, Uruguay 1, Venezuela 1)
registered in other countries: 3 (Barbados 1, Panama 2) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Freeport, Nassau, South Riding Point
Military Military branches: Royal Bahamian Defense Force: Land Force, Navy, Air Wing (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age (est.); no conscription (2001)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 73,121 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 44,309 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 2,804 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 0.5% (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: disagrees with the US on the alignment of a potential maritime boundary; continues to monitor and interdict drug dealers and Haitian refugees in Bahamian waters
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for cocaine and marijuana bound for US and Europe; offshore financial center