The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is an independent, sovereign, English-speaking country consisting of two thousand cays and seven hundred islands that form an archipelago. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the United States; north of Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic & Haiti) and the Caribbean Sea; and northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the New World was on an island he named San Salvador (known to the Lucayans as Guanahani) which is generally accepted to be present-day San Salvador Island (also known as Watling Island) in the southeastern Bahamas. Here, Columbus made first contact with the Lucayans and exchanged goods with them.
The Spaniards who followed Columbus depopulated the islands and they were deserted until the arrival of the Eleutherian Adventurers from Bermuda in the mid 1600s. The Adventurers (who were English) established the first permanent European settlements on an island which they named Eleuthera - the name derives from the Greek word for freedom. They later discovered New Providence and named it Sayle's Island. To survive, the settlers salvaged goods from wrecks.
In 1670 King Charles II granted the islands to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas, who rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country.
During proprietary rule, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. To restore orderly government, the Bahamas was made a British crown colony in 1718 under the royal governorship of Woodes Rogers, who cracked down on piracy.
During the American Revolutionary War, the islands were a target for American naval forces under the command of Commodore Ezekial Hopkins. The capital of Nassau on the island of New Providence was occupied by US Marines for a fortnight.
In 1782, after the British defeat at Yorktown, a Spanish fleet appeared off Nassau, which surrendered without a fight. But the 1783 Treaty of Versailles - which ended the global conflict between Britain, France and Spain - returned the Bahamas to British sovereignty.
After the American Revolution, some 8,000 loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas from New York, Florida and the Carolinas. The Americans established plantations on several out islands and became a political force in the capital. The small population became mostly African from this point on.
The British abolished the slave trade in 1807, which led to the forced settlement on Bahamian islands of thousands of Africans liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy. Slavery itself was finally abolished in the British Empire on August 1 1834.
Modern political development began after the Second World War. The first political parties were formed in the 1950s and the British made the islands internally self-governing in 1964, with Roland Symonette as of the United Bahamian Party as the first premier.
In 1967, Lynden Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party became the first black premier of the colony, and in 1968 the title was changed to prime minister. In 1973, the Bahamas became fully independent, but retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Sir Milo Butler was appointed the first black governor-general (the representative of Queen Elizabeth 11) upon independence.
Based on the twin pillars of tourism and offshore finance, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s. However, there remain significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, international narcotics trafficking and illegal immigration from Haiti.
The origin of the name "Bahamas" is unclear. It may derive from the Spanish baja mar, meaning "shallow seas"; or the Lucayan word for Grand Bahama Island, ba-ha-ma "large upper middle land".
The closest island to the United States is Bimini, which is also known as the gateway to the Bahamas. The island of Abaco is to the east of Grand Bahama. The southeasternmost island is Great Inagua. Other notable islands include the Bahamas' largest island, Andros Island, and Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma and Mayaguana. Nassau, the Bahamas capital city, lies on the island of New Providence.
All the islands are low and flat, with ridges that usually rise no more than . The highest point in the country is Mount Alvernia, or Como Hill, which has an altitude of . To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank, and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of the Bahamas, but not part of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. .
The climate of the Bahamas is subtropical to tropical, and is moderated significantly by the waters of the Gulf Stream, particularly in winter. Conversely, this often proves very dangerous in the summer and autumn, when hurricanes pass near or through the islands. Hurricane Andrew hit the northern islands during the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season, and Hurricane Floyd hit most of the islands during the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Frances hit in 2004; the Atlantic hurricane season of 2004 was expected to be the worst ever for the islands. Also in 2004, the northern Bahamas were hit by a less potent Hurricane Jeanne. In 2005 the northern islands were once again struck, this time by Hurricane Wilma. In Grand Bahama, tidal surges and high winds destroyed homes and schools, floated graves and made roughly 1,000 people homeless, most of whom lived on the west coast of the island.
While there has never been a freeze reported in the Bahamas, the temperature can fall as low as 2-3°C during Arctic outbreaks that affect nearby Florida. Snow has been reported to have mixed with rain in Freeport in January, 1977, the same time that it snowed in the Miami, FL area. The temperature was about 5°C at the time.
Legislative power is vested in a bicameral parliament, which consists of a 41-member House of Assembly (the lower house), with members elected from single-member districts, and a 16-member Senate, with members appointed by the governor-general, including nine on the advice of the prime minister, four on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and three on the advice of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition. The House of Assembly carries out all major legislative functions. As under the Westminster system, the prime minister may dissolve parliament and call a general election at any time within a five-year term.
The prime minister is the head of government and is the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Assembly. Executive power is exercised by the cabinet, selected by the prime minister and drawn his supporters in the House of Assembly. The current governor-general is Arthur Dion Hanna and the current prime minister is Hubert Ingraham.
The Bahamas has a largely two-party system 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 have included 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 law.
|Andros and Berry Islands||97||1.30%||299||4.01%||94.69%|
|Grand Bahama and Bimini||450||8.30%||721||13.31%||78.39%|
|San Salvador and Rum Cay||46||5.56%||51||6.17%||730||88.27%||827|
|Long Island and Ragged Island||564||13.84%||50.83%||35.33%|
|Crooked Islands, Acklins and Long Cay||7||0.32%||513||23.44%||76.24%|
|Mayaguana and Inagua||60||3.74%||95||5.93%||90.33%|
Population: 300,529 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29% (male 43,964; female 43,250) 15-64 years: 64.7% (male 95,508; female 98,859) 65 years and over: 6.3% (male 7,948; female 11,000) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.86% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 18.69 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 7.49 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 17.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 69.87 years female: 73.49 years (2002 est.) male: 66.32 years
Total fertility rate: 2.28 children born/woman (2002 est.)
Nationality: noun: Bahamian(s)
Ethnic groups: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%
Religions: Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 19%, Methodist 6%, Church of God 6%, other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2% The 'other' category includes Jews, Muslims, Baha'is, Hindus, Rastafarians, and practitioners of Obeah.
Languages: English, Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Literacy (age 15+): total population: 98.2% male: 98.5% female: 98% (1995 est.)
In the less developed outer islands, handicrafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called "straw", is plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items.
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.
Sailing and Track and field athletics are 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.
In the 2000 Sydney Olympics the "Golden Girls" were born, Pauline Davis-Thompson, Debbie Ferguson, Sevatheda Fynes, Chandra Sturrup & Eldece Clark-Lewis by winning gold in the women's 4 x 100m relay. Pauline Davis-Thompson also won silver in the women's 200m in Sydney. In 2004 Athens Tonique Williams-Darling won gold in the 400m finishing in 49.41(s) & Debbie Ferguson placed third in women's 200m 22.30(s). At the 2008 Beijing Olympics Andretti Bain, Michael Mathieu, Andrae Williams and Christopher Brown won the Silver medal in the 4 x 400m men's relay team. Leevan Sands aka "Superman" also won an Olympic medal for the Bahamas in the men's triple jump after placing third with 17.59/+0.9 (Distance (m)/Wind (m/s) setting a national record.
They are also very active in the world of karting; the current Bahamian one after the other champion is Genevieve Siddons.
The Bahamian dollar is pegged to the US dollar, and US notes and coins are used interchangeably with Bahamian currency for most practical purposes. However, government exchange controls still apply for the purchase of foreign currency.
The Bahamas is classified as an upper middle-income developing country and has the third highest per capita income in the western hemisphere (after the United States and Canada). Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for about two thirds of the gross domestic product (GDP). Offshore finance is the second largest industry, accounting for about 15 per cent of GDP.
The government continues to promote tourism and financial services while aiming for greater diversification through agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and e-commerce.
In the 1960s, the country enjoyed robust growth averaging 9 per cent annually as direct foreign investment spurred the development of tourism. A global economic downturn after the 1973 oil price shock coincided with Bahamian independence and led to a drop in foreign investment.
Toward the end of that decade economic performance improved, led by growth in tourism. Real GDP growth in the 1980-84 period averaged 3 per cent, but declined in the late 1980s. GDP growth was 0.3 per cent in 1995 and accelerated to 6 per cent in 1999. After 9/11 the economy slumped temporarily due to travel fears, but began growing again in 2002. Bahamas is now more commonly known as a popular destination amongst the rich & powerful business families of North America.
Historically, most development has occurred on New Providence and Grand Bahama, causing significant migration from the Family Islands to these two urban centers and straining their infrastructure. The government is also faced with the burden of duplicating facilities and services throughout the archipelago.
There is no income, corporate or capital gains tax. Government revenues are derived from import tariffs, excise taxes, property taxes, business licenses and fees.
Economist: petroleum-importing states should handle price shock. (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston vice president Norman S. Fieleke)
Nov 01, 1990; Economist: Petroleum-Importing States Should Handle Price Shock Barring a major armed conflict, the world's petroleum-importing...