|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 (2014 est.): 321,834 (growth
rate: 0.87%); birth rate: 15.65/1000; infant mortality rate: 12.5/1000;
life expectancy: 71.93
Capital and largest city (2011 est.):
Monetary unit: Bahamian dollar
Current government officials
English (official), Creole (among Haitian
black 90.6%, white 4.7%, black and white 2.1%, other 1.9%, unspecified 0.7% (2010 est.)
Protestant 69.9% (includes Baptist 34.9%, Anglican 13.7%, Pentecostal 8.9% Seventh Day Adventist 4.4%, Methodist 3.6%, Church of God 1.9%, Brethren 1.6%), Roman Catholic 12%, other Christian 13% (includes Jehovah's Witness 1.1%), other 0.6%, none 1.9%, unspecified 2.6% (2010 est.)
Independence Day, July 10
Literacy rate: 95.6% (2011 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2013 est.):
$8.373 billion; per capita $32,000. Real growth rate: 1.9%.
Inflation: 1% (2011 est.). Unemployment: 16.2%. Arable
land: 0.65%. Agriculture: citrus, vegetables; poultry.
Labor force: 196,900 (2011); agriculture 3%, industry 11%,
tourism 49%, other services 37% (2011 est.). Industries:
tourism, banking, cement, oil transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite,
pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipe. Natural resources:
salt, aragonite, timber, arable land. Exports: $960 million
(2013 est.): mineral products and salt, animal products, rum,
chemicals, fruit and vegetables. Imports: $3.245 billion (2013
est.): machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals,
mineral fuels; food and live animals. Major trading partners:
U.S., South Korea, Dominican Republic, India, Singapore,
Ecuador, Colombia, China, Canada, Switzerland (2012).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main
lines in use: 137,00 (2012); mobile cellular: 254,000 (2012).
Broadcast media: 2 TV stations operated by government-owned, commercially run Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas (BCB); multi-channel cable TV subscription service is available; about 15 radio stations operating with BCB operating a multi-channel radio broadcasting network alongside privately owned radio stations (2007). Internet hosts:
20,661 (2012). Internet users: 115,800 (2012).
Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways:
total: 2,717 km; (2011).
Ports and harbors: Freeport, Nassau, South Riding Point.
Airports: 61 (2013).
disputes: disagrees with the US on the alignment of the northern axis of a potential maritime boundary.
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:
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