Bahamas

Commonwealth of the Bahamas

Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Governor-General: Sir Arthur Foulkes (2010)

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.): Nassau, 248,000

Monetary unit: Bahamian dollar

Current government officials

Languages: English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)

Ethnicity/race: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%

Religions: Baptist 35%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 14%, Pentecostal 8%, Church of God 5%, Methodist 4%, other Christian 15% (2000)

National Holiday: 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).

International 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

Flag of Bahamas

Geography

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).

Government

Parliamentary democracy.

History

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: The Bahamas


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