One of the richest countries in the Caribbean
The Bahamas comprises more than 700 islands in the Caribbean, many with sandy beaches and clear water, although only around 30 are inhabited. The majority of people live on New Providence Island, particularly in the capital, Nassau.
Bahamians generally have good standards of education and, compared with many other Caribbean countries, incomes are high. Health standards too are good but around 3% of 15–49-year-olds are HIV-positive. The islands also attract unauthorized immigrants, particularly from Haiti, to work in hotels and restaurants, and are also a stopover for illegal Chinese migrants being smuggled to the USA.
Tourism accounts for around one-third of GDP and employs around half the workforce. Each year there are more than one million stopover visitors to the country's resorts, and about three million cruise passengers—the majority of visitors coming from the USA. Casino gambling is becoming more important following investment in resort hotels. The largest employer is the South African company Kerzner International.
But not everyone has gained from the tourist boom which still leaves many young people unemployed.
There are no rivers, and the soil is poor, so opportunities for agriculture are limited. But there is a small fishing industry that catches lobsters for local consumption and export.
The Bahamas also has a significant offshore financial sector that contributes about 15% of GDP and employs around 5,000 people. The industry acquired a dubious reputation in the 1980s through association with money laundering and also with the trade in cocaine and marijuana. Following international criticism, the country has taken steps to clean up the financial services industry.
The Bahamas is a parliamentary democracy whose head of state is the British monarch. In the decades after independence in 1973 the government was usually in the hands of Sir Lynden Pindling, leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). By the end of the 1980s, however, there was an economic downturn along with allegations of corruption.
The elections in 1992 resulted in a victory for the Free National Movement (FNM), which won again in 1997. The elections in 2002, saw the return of the PLP, now led by Perry Christie. But following the 2007 election the FNM, led by Hubert Ingraham, returned with a small majority.
www.bahamas.com/ Ministry of Tourism
www.nassauguardian.com Nassau Guardian - Main newspaper
Land area: 14,000 sq. km.
Population: 304,000—urban 84%
Capital city: Nassau, 212,000
People: Black 85%, white 12%, others 3%
Language: English, Creole
Religion: Baptist 35%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 14%, Pentecostal 8%, Church of God 5%, Methodist 4%, other 19%
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Life expectancy: 73 years
GDP per capita: $PPP 29,723
Currency: Bahamas dollar
Major exports: Lobsters, rum