About The Bahamas

Bahamas flag

Key Facts

  • Officially called " The Commonwealth of The Bahamas" 
  • July 10,1973 the Bahamas became an independent country from the United Kingdom
  • Nassau (originally known as Charlestown until 1695) is the country's capital, however, Dunmore Town in Harbour island was the original capital of The Bahamas
  • The official symbolism of the Bahamian flag's colors and design is as follows: Black represents the vigor and force of a united people; the triangle pointing towards the body of the flag represents the enterprise and determination of Bahamians to develop and possess the rich resources of land and sea symbolised by gold and aquamarine respectively
  • The name "Bahamas" came from the Spanish word bajamar", which means "shallow water"

 

Demographics:

  • English is the official language
  • Total population 313,312 as of July 2011
  • Eighty-five percent of the Bahamian population is of African heritage.  About two-thirds of the population lives on New Providence Island
  • Median age (2009 estimate) female 29.5 years, male 27.9 years, total: 28.7 years
  • The Bahamas is a religious country; greatest number of churches per capita in the world
  • There are 256 schools in the Bahamas. Of these 161 (63%) are maintained by the government and 95 (38%) are independent. 

 

Geography:

  • 100,000sq mi archipelago that extends for more than 500 mi between Southeast Florida and Northern Hispaniola
  • There are 700 islands; 30 inhabited and 2,400 cays
  • The mile deep Tongue of the Ocean is located east of Andros, flanked by the world's third longest barrier reef
  • Dean's Blue Hole is the world's deepest known blue hole with seawater. Plunging 663 ft in a bay west of Clarence Town on Long Island, Bahamas
  • Bordered on the West by the Gulf Stream and on the East by the Atlantic Ocean, the islands have a tropical maritime climate
  • The Bahamas can be affected by hurricanes or tropical storms between June 1 and November 30. Based on figures compiled for the past 90-year period, Nassau may expect to experience hurricane conditions on average of once every 9 years
  • Operates on Eastern Time (ET) which is five hours behind GMT.  Effective 2007, along with the US, the Bahama islands observes daylight saving time from the 2nd Sunday in March to the 1st Sunday in November
  • Highest land elevation is 206ft (Mount Alvernia, Cat Island)
  • The principal islands include Abaco, Acklins, Andros, Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Harbour Island, Inagua, Long Island, Mayaguana, New Providence (where the capital, Nassau, is located), Ragged Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Spanish Wells
  • All the Islands of the Bahamas are called Out Islands or Family islands, except for New Providence and Grand Bahama. This is because that is where the two biggest cities are located. Nassau is in New Providence and Freeport is in Grand Bahama

 

History:

  • The earliest settlers of The Bahamas were Siboney Indians, who disappeared after the Taino people arrived from South America (2,000 years ago)
  • The Taino or island Arawaks arrived from Cuba and Hispaniola and created a new culture that spread throughout the archipelago and became known as Lucayan
  • When Christopher Columbus made landfall in the New World, on what is now San Salvador (formerly Guanihani) on October 12, 1492 there were an estimated 40,000 Lucayans living throughout the islands. They disappeared within 25 years
  • In 1647, The Company of Eleutherian Adventurers attempted to colonize the depopulated Bahama Island and claim them for Great Britain
  • Between 1717 and 1783 the Bahama Islands were invaded by pirates, American Colonial warships and Spaniards before finally being restored to Great Britain by treaty
  • In 1964, the colony gained internal self-government.  It became a commonwealth in 1969. In 1973, the Bahama Islands became the free and sovereign Commonwealth of The Bahamas ending 325 years of British rule

 

Economy

  • In May 1966, The Bahamas switched from British pound sterling to the Bahamian dollar, which has remained on par with the US dollar
  • Legal currency of The Bahamas is the Bahamian dollar, although the US dollar is accepted throughout the islands
  • There is no personal income tax, no corporate income tax, no capital gains tax, and no inheritance tax.  Due to the absence of these tax structures, there are import/customs duties which are the main source of government revenue
  • The Bahamas imports most goods from the US
  • The largest domestic export is crawfish (spiny lobster) valued at $80.3m
  • Manufacturing output in The Bahamas in 2007 totaled $491.880m - leading product is beverages, particularly rum and liqueurs
  • Nearly a million pounds of salt is produced from the Salinas of Inagua by the Morton Salt Company.  There are 80 salt ponds, covering over 12,000 acres
  • The bark from the native Cascarilla tree is gathered and shipped to Italy where it becomes a main ingredient in medicines, scents and the Italian aperitif called Campari
  • The Bahamas economy is based on tourism, offshore banking and construction.  The agricultural and industrial sectors are comparatively small. Tourism generates about 50% of the total GDP and directly or indirectly employs about 50,000 people, roughly half the workforce.   In 2008, according to the Ministry of Tourism visitors to the Bahamas spent $ 2.5bn.  Cruise ships bring in more than 3m people in The Bahamas yearly
  • The banking and finance sector is the second pillar of the economy, accounting for between 15-20% of GDP, and employs more than 4,900 persons.  The Bahamas ranks as one of the top 10 offshore jurisdictions worldwide, and has long been considered the leading offshore banking center in the Americas
  • The agricultural sector contributes 2% to GDP and employs about 3% of the population.  The value of the output of this sector in 2008 was $74.9m

 

Government & Politics:

  • When independence from the United Kingdom was achieved on July 10, 1973 a constitution representing the supreme law of the land went into effect for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas
  • The constitution proclaims The Bahamas as a sovereign democratic state.  The Bahamas retains its ties with the Commonwealth of Nations and also retains the British Monarch as its head of state. The Queen is represented in The Bahamas by a Governor General who is appointed and serves at "Her Majesty's pleasure", legally removable by the Prime Minister 
  • There is a bicameral Parliament consisting of a Senate (16 members; 9 appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, 4 on the advice of the Leader Of The Opposition, and 3 on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader Of The Opposition) and a House of Assembly  (currently 41 elected members)
  • Executive branch consists of a Cabinet of at least 9 members including Prime Minister and Attorney General.
  •  An independent judiciary, including a Supreme Court and a Court of Appeal is provided for along with the right of appeal to Her Majesty's Privy Council (England).  Judges are appointed by the Governor General
  • The Governor general signs bills into law after they are passed by the House of Assemble and Senate
  • English common law is the basis of the Bahamian judicial system, although there is a large volume of Bahamian statute law