|Area:||13,939 sq. km. (5 382 sq. mi.)|
|Population:||(2004 est): 320,665|
|Capital City:||Nassau, New Providence. Second Largest City - Freeport, Grand Bahama|
|People:||Nationality - Noun and adjective - Bahamian(s); Ethnic Groups - African 85% European 12% Asian and Hispanic 3%|
|Languages:||English; some Creole amongst Haitian groups.|
|Education:||Mandatory and free up to age 16. Enrolment for mandatory attendance 99.2%. Literacy rate 96.6%.|
|Religion(s):||Baptist predominant (32%) Roman Catholic (19%), Anglican (20%), Evangelical Protestants (12%), Methodists, Church of God (6%)|
|Currency:||Bahamian Dollar (BSD): 1.73 BSD to the British Pound (Dec 05) Major political parties: Free National Movement (FNM), Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), Bahamian Freedom Alliance (PFA), Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR)|
|Head of State:||HM the Queen|
|Prime Minister:||Perry Gladstone Christie|
|Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security:||Cynthia A Pratt|
|Governor-General:||Dame Ivy Dumont DCMG|
|Foreign Minister:||Fred Mitchell|
Terrain: Low and Flat
In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the Western Hemisphere in The Bahamas. Spanish slave traders later captured native Lucayan Indians to work in the gold mines in Hispaniola, and within 25 years, all Lucayans perished. In 1647, a group of English and Bermudan religious refugees, the Eleutheran Adventurers, founded the first permanent European settlement in the Bahamas and gave Eleuthera Island its name. Similar groups of settlers formed governments in the Bahamas until the islands became a British Crown Colony in 1717. The first Royal Governor, a former pirate named Woodes Rogers, brought law and order to the Bahamas in 1718, when he expelled the buccaneers who had used the islands as hideouts. During the American Civil War, the Bahamas prospered as a centre of Confederate blockade-running. After World War I, the islands served as a base for American rum-runners. During World War II, the Allies centred their flight training and anti-submarine operations for the Caribbean in the Bahamas. Since then, the Bahamas has developed into a major tourist and financial services centre. The Bahamas achieved self-government through a series of constitutional and political steps, attaining internal self-government in 1964 and full independence within the Commonwealth on July 10, 1973.
Eighty-five percent of the Bahamian population is of African heritage. About two-thirds of the population reside on New Providence Island (the location of Nassau). Many ancestors arrived in the Bahama Islands when they served a staging area for the slave trade in the early 1800s. Others accompanied thousands of British loyalists who fled the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.
The Bahamas has a parliamentary system of government in which the Governor General represents the titular head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her Excellency Dame Ivy Dumont has held the office of Governor General since 1 January 2002. In 2003, the Government appointed a bi-partisan Constitutional Commission with the mandate to provide a comprehensive review of the constitution and to consider the method of amending it or adopting a new one. The Commission has yet to produce its report.
The Prime Minister, Perry Christie, is the Head of the Executive and is the leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which commands the largest number of seats in the legislature. The PLP was elected on 2 May 2002 with 51.8% of the popular vote, gaining 29 out of 40 seats in the House. The Free National Movement (FNM) won seven seats. The next general elections are due to be held in June 2007.
The Bahamas is a developing country, with a GDP per capita of US$ 16,443. The main economic activity is tourism, which generates approximately 60% of the country’s GDP. Second comes Offshore Financial Services, contributing approximately 15% of GDP, followed by the Agriculture and Fisheries industries, which together account for 8% of GDP.
The Country’s economic activity increased in 2004 by around 3%, following recovery in US-led demand in the tourist industry (US nationals account for 80% of visitors to the Bahamas). Tourism receipts are expected to pick up in the coming years as a string of investment projects come on stream.
Financial services remain an important sector of the Bahamian economy, although, since December 2000, when the government enacted new regulations on the financial sector, a number of international businesses have left The Bahamas. Manufacturing and agriculture together contribute approximately a tenth of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. Medium-term projections point to a gradual erosion in external competitiveness.
The unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in 2004, down from 10.8% in 2003, but up from 9.1% in 2002 and 6.9% in 2001.
The Bahamas is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic and Cuba), The Association of Caribbean States (ACS), The Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA), and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
The Government of the Bahamas is involved in on-going discussions on economic co-operation and trade liberalisation involving the United States and Canada, which includes the proposed hemisphere-wide Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations. The Government is participating with 33 other countries to forge an FTAA. However, these talks have yet to reach agreement.
The Bahamas has applied for Membership of the Word Trade Organisation (WTO), where it currently enjoys Observer status, and has started negotiations on its accession.
Bahamas experiences cocaine traffic largely along the Colombia - Jamaica - Bahamas corridor. International law enforcement efforts in the Jamaican corridor and elsewhere in the Caribbean region have resulted in a marked drop in recent years of traffic through the Bahamas. But with direct commercial airline links to the UK and a modern container facility in Freeport, the Bahamas remains a potential threat for direct trafficking to Europe. The Bahamians have made important cocaine seizures in sea containers in transit destined for Europe from Colombia.
Infant Mortality rate - 25.21/1000. (2005 est.)
Life Expectancy - men: 62.11 years; women: 69.04 years (2005 est.)
AIDS is a leading cause of death among Bahamian men and women aged 15-44. Between 1985 and 2002, 3,123 people died of AIDS in The Bahamas. Between 1983 and 2002, a total of 4,383 new AIDS cases were reported, and a further 4,947 people were reported to be HIV positive without showing symptoms of the disease.
The disease occurs in The Bahamas primarily among heterosexuals, with a male to female ratio of 1.1:1. However, this ratio is expected to change. Although the number of new HIV infections is declining, around two-thirds of newly reported cases are women.
The Bahamas has had some success with an HIV/AIDS programme to reduce mother to child transmissions. Prior to 1995, 30% of babies born to HIV positive women were infected with the virus. In the year following introduction of treatment programmes this figure had dropped to 10%, and by the end of 2001 the figure was 3%.