The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is an independent English-speaking nation in the West Indies. An archipelago of 700 islands and cays (or keys), the Bahamas is located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida in the United States, north of Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean, and west of the British dependency of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Forward Upward Onward Together
|Governor general||Ivy Dumont[?]|
|Prime minister||Perry Christie[?]|
- % water
|Ranked 155th |
- Total (2002)
|From the United Kingdom
July 10, 1973
|Time zone||UTC -5|
|National anthem||March On, Bahamaland|
Christopher Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492 was on the island of San Salvador, possibly located in the Bahamas. He encountered friendly Arawak (also known as Lucayan) Amerindians and exchanged gifts with them. The British settled on the islands in the 17th century, and made it a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1973, the Bahamas has prospered through tourism, international banking and investment management.
The British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, is also the head of state of the Bahamas, which has remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. She is represented in the Bahamas by a governor general, appointed by the monarch herself. Head of government is the prime minister, usually the leader of the winning party of the elections for the parliament. The Bahamian parliament consists of two chambers, the Senate (with 16 members) and the House of Assembly (40). Elections are held every 5 years.
The Bahamas is divided into 21 districts:
The largest island of the Bahamas is Andros[?], in the west. The island of New Providence[?], east of Andros, is the site of the capital city Nassau and home to about two-thirds of the total population. Other important islands are Grand Bahama[?] in the north and Inagua[?] in the south.
Most of the islands - coral formations - are relatively flat, with some low rounded hills, the highest of which is Mount Alvernia[?], on Cat Island[?], at 63 m. The local climate is tropical, moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, with occasional hurricanes or tropical storms.
The Bahamas is a stable, developing nation with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism alone accounts for more than 60% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs almost half of the archipelago's labour force. Steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences have led to solid GDP growth in recent years.
Manufacturing and agriculture together contribute approximately a tenth of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. Overall growth prospects in the short run rest heavily on the fortunes of the tourism sector, which depends on growth in the United States, the source of the majority of tourist visitors.
Most of the Bahamian population is black (85%); about 12% is white. The official language is English, spoken by virtually all inhabitants. Christianity is the main religion on the islands, with Baptists forming the largest denomination (about one third), followed by the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.
Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.