|Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)
Governor-General: Dame Marguerite Pindling
Prime Minister: Perry Christie (2012)
Land area: 3,888 sq mi (10,070 sq km);
total area: 5,382 sq mi 13,940 sq km)
Population (2012 est.):316,182 (growth
rate: 0.9%); birth rate: 15.95/1000; infant mortality rate: 13.09/1000;
life expectancy: 71.44; density per sq km: 30
Capital and largest city (2009 est.):
Monetary unit: Bahamian dollar
Current government officials
English (official), Creole (among Haitian
black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic
Baptist 35%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 14%,
Pentecostal 8%, Church of God 5%, Methodist 4%, other Christian 15%
Independence Day, July 10
Literacy rate: 95.6% (2011 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.):
$10.81 billion; per capita $30,900. Real growth rate: 2%.
Inflation: 2.8% (2011 est.). Unemployment: 14.2%. Arable
land: 0.58%. Agriculture: citrus, vegetables; poultry.
Labor force: 184,000 (2011); agriculture 5%, industry 5%,
tourism 50%, other services 40% (2005 est.). Industries:
tourism, banking, cement, oil transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite,
pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipe. Natural resources:
salt, aragonite, timber, arable land. Exports: $709.7 million
(2011 est.): mineral products and salt, animal products, rum,
chemicals, fruit and vegetables. Imports: $2.854 billion (2011
est.): machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals,
mineral fuels; food and live animals. Major trading partners:
U.S., Poland, Spain, Germany, France, South Korea, Brazil, Japan,
Italy, Venezuela (2004).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main
lines in use: 129,300 (2011); mobile cellular: 428,400 (2011).
Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2006).
Television broadcast stations: 2 (2006). Internet hosts:
20,674 (2012). Internet users: 115,800 (2011).
Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways:
total: 2,717 km; (2011).
Ports and harbors: Freeport, Nassau, South Riding Point.
Airports: 62 (2011).
disputes: disagrees with the US on the alignment of the maritime
boundary; continues to monitor and interdict Haitian refugees fleeing
economic privation and political instability .
Major sources and definitions
The Bahamas are an archipelago of about 700
islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays lying 50 mi off the east
coast of Florida. They extend for about 760 mi (1,223 km). Only about 30
of the islands are inhabited; the most important is New Providence (80 sq
mi; 207 sq km), on which the capital, Nassau, is situated. Other islands
include Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, and San
Salvador (or Watling's Island).
The Arawak Indians were the first inhabitants of
the Bahamas. Columbus's first encounter with the New World was on Oct. 12,
1492, when he landed on the Bahamian island of San Salvador. The British
first built settlements on the islands in the 17th century. In the early
18th century, the Bahamas were a favorite pirate haunt.
The Bahamas were a Crown colony from 1717 until
they were granted internal self-government in 1964. The islands moved
toward greater autonomy in 1968 after the overwhelming victory in general
elections of the Progressive Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Lynden
O. Pindling, over the predominantly white United Bahamians Party. With its
new mandate from the black population (85% of Bahamians), Pindling's
government negotiated a new constitution with Britain under which the
colony became the Commonwealth of the Bahama Islands in 1969. On July 10,
1973, the Bahamas became an independent nation.
An Emerging Economy
Once heavily reliant on agriculture and fishing,
the Bahamas has diversified its economy into tourism, financial services,
and international shipping. While the nation enjoys a per capita income
that is among the top 30 in the world, there is a big gap between the
urban middle class and poor farmers. In addition, the nation is vulnerable
to hurricanes, which regularly inflict serious damage.
Hubert Ingraham became prime minister in May
2007 after his Free National Movement, an opposition party, won
parliamentary elections. As of 2012, the Bahamas remains one of the wealthiest countries (GDP per capita) in the Americas, after Bermuda, the U.S., the Cayman Islands, Canada, and the Virgin Islands.
New Prime Minister Elected
On May 7, 2012, parliamentary elections were held. The Progressive Liberal Party took 29 of the 38 seats. Progressive Liberal Party member Perry Christie was sworn in as prime minister and finance minister. Christie served one prior term as prime minister from 2002 to 2007.
See also Encyclopedia: Bahamas.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes:
Information Please® Database, © 2012 Pearson
Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
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