Facts about Bahamas

World Facts Index > Bahamas > Nassau

BahamasArawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.

Geography of the Bahamas

Caribbean, chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba
24 15 N, 76 00 W
total: 13,940 sq km
water: 3,870 sq km
land: 10,070 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than Connecticut
Land boundaries:
0 km
3,542 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream
long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Alvernia, on Cat Island 63 m
Natural resources:
salt, aragonite, timber, arable land
Natural hazards:
hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage
Environment - current issues:
coral reef decay; solid waste disposal
Geography - note:
strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba; extensive island chain of which 30 are inhabited

Population of the Bahamas

307,451 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 26.4% (male 40,608/female 40,506)
15-64 years: 66.9% (male 101,150/female 104,457)
65 years and over: 6.7% (male 8,472/female 12,258)
Median age:
total: 28.4 years
male: 27.6 years
female: 29.2 years
Growth rate:
0.72% (2004 est.), 0.64% (2006 est.), 0.57% (2008 est.)
Infant mortality:
23.67 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 65.72 years
male: 62.5 years
female: 69 years
Total fertility rate:
2.18 children born/woman
noun: Bahamian(s)
adjective: Bahamian
Ethnic groups:
black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%
Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 19%, Methodist 6%, Church of God 6%, other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%
English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 95.6%
male: 94.7%
female: 96.5%


Country name:
conventional long form: Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Government type:
constitutional parliamentary democracy
Administrative divisions:
21 districts; Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Exuma, Freeport, Fresh Creek, Governor's Harbour, Green Turtle Cay, Harbour Island, High Rock, Inagua, Kemps Bay, Long Island, Marsh Harbour, Mayaguana, New Providence, Nichollstown and Berry Islands, Ragged Island, Rock Sound, Sandy Point, San Salvador and Rum Cay
10 July 1973 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 10 July (1973)
10 July 1973
Legal system:
based on English common law
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Arthur D. HANNA (since 1 February 2006)
head of government: Prime Minister Hubert A. INGRAHAM (since 4 May 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the prime minister's recommendation
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; the prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (16-member body appointed by the governor general upon the advice of the prime minister and the opposition leader for five-year terms) and the House of Assembly (40 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms); the government may dissolve the Parliament and call elections at any time
Judicial branch:
Privy Council (London); Courts of Appeal; Supreme (lower) Court; magistrates courts


The Bahamas is one of the wealthiest Caribbean countries with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism together with tourism-driven construction and manufacturing accounts for approximately 60% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs half of the archipelago's labor force. Steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences had led to solid GDP growth in recent years, but tourist arrivals have been on the decline since 2006. Financial services constitute the second-most important sector of the Bahamian economy and, when combined with business services, account for about 36% of GDP. However, since December 2000, when the government enacted new regulations on the financial sector, many international businesses have left The Bahamas. Manufacturing and agriculture combined 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. Tourism, in turn, depends on growth in the US, the source of more than 80% of the visitors.

$8.553 billion (2007 est.)
GDP growth rate:
1% (2003 est.), 3.5% (2005 est.), 2.8% (2007 est.)
GDP per capita:
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 3%
industry: 7%
services: 90%
Population below poverty line:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 5%, industry 5%, tourism 50%, other services 40% (2005 est.)
6.9% (2001 est.), 10.2% (2005 est.), 7.6% (2006 est.)
tourism, banking, e-commerce, cement, oil refining and transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipe
citrus, vegetables; poultry
fish and crawfish; rum, salt, chemicals; fruit and vegetables
Export partners:
US 21.2%, Singapore 16.1%, Spain 15.1%, Poland 14.9%, Germany 6.9%, Guatemala 5.9%
machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, mineral fuels; food and live animals
Import partners:
US 22.7%, Brazil 16.6%, Japan 11.5%, South Korea 8.2%, Italy 6.3%, Singapore 4.4%
Bahamian dollar (BSD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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