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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Facts

Area: 13,939 sq km(5,382 sq miles)
Population: 340,000 (2008 est)
Capital City: The two most populated areas are the capital, Nassau, New Providence and Freeport, on Grand Bahama
People: Nationality - Noun and adjective - Bahamian(s); Ethnic Groups - African 85%, European 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%
Languages: English; some Creole amongst Haitian groups
Education: Mandatory and free up to age 16. Enrolment for mandatory attendance 99.2%. Literacy rate 96.6%
Religion(s): Christian; Baptist (32%) Anglican (20%), Roman Catholic (19%), Evangelical Protestants (12%), Methodists, Church of God (6%)
Currency: Bahamian Dollar (BSD), $1BSD = $1US
Major political parties: Free National Movement (FNM), Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), Bahamas Democratic Movement
Government: parliamentary democracy. Independence: 10 July 1973
Head of State: HM The Queen
Prime Minister: The Rt Hon Hubert Alexander Ingraham
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister: The Hon Brent Symonette
Governor-General: His Excellency The Hon Arthur D Hanna

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HEALTH

Infant Mortality rate

13 deaths/1000 live births (2011 est)

Life Expectancy

Total population: 74 years (WHO)
Male: 71 years
Female: 77 years

HIV/AIDS

National adult HIV prevalence in The Bahamas is among the highest in the Caribbean at 3.3%. Improved management and treatment of AIDS appears to have reduced the number of deaths due to AIDS. But AIDS is still a leading cause of death among Bahamian men and women aged 15-44.

The disease occurs primarily among heterosexuals (approximately 87%), although under-reporting by men who have sex with men remains a challenge. Transmission through intravenous drug use is considered to be insignificant.

The decline in new HIV infections can be attributed to the strategies taken by the Government of The Bahamas beginning early in the epidemic, and that continue to form the backbone of the response to HIV and AIDS. A slight increase in the number of newly reported HIV infections was noted in 2005 and 2006 which was attributed to the increased testing during the “Know Your Status” campaign launched by the HIV/AIDS Centre.

Drugs

The Bahamas experiences cocaine traffic largely along the Colombia-Jamaica-Bahamas corridor. International law enforcement efforts in the Jamaican corridor and elsewhere in the Caribbean region have resulted in a marked drop in traffic through The Bahamas in recent years. But with direct commercial airline links to the UK and a modern container facility in Freeport, The Bahamas remains a potential threat for direct trafficking to Europe. The Bahamians have made important cocaine seizures in sea containers in transit destined for Europe from Colombia.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP (at market prices): US$ 7.538 billion (2010 est)
GDP (Real Growth Rate): -0.5% (2010 est)
Inflation: (Consumer Prices) 4.5% (2008 est)
Major industries: Tourism, banking, cement, oil trans-shipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals and spiral-welded steel pipe, agriculture
Major Trading Partners: Export partners 2008: EU 57.6%, US 22%, Singapore 19.3%. Import partners 2008: US 25.7%, South Korea 19.3%, Japan 16.9%, Venezuela 5.1%
Agricultural products: Citrus, winter vegetables and poultry are the mainstay of the agricultural sector which is concentrated in The Abacos

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HISTORY

In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the Western Hemisphere in The Bahamas. Spanish slave traders later captured native Lucayan Indians to work in the gold mines in Hispaniola, and within 25 years, all Lucayans perished. In 1647, a group of English and Bermudan religious refugees, the Eleutheran Adventurers, founded the first permanent European settlement in the Bahamas and gave Eleuthera Island its name. Similar groups of settlers formed governments in the Bahamas until the islands became a British Crown Colony in 1717. The first Royal Governor, a former pirate named Woodes Rogers, brought law and order to the Bahamas in 1718, when he expelled the buccaneers who had used the islands as hideouts. During the American Civil War, the Bahamas prospered as a centre of Confederate blockade-running and during Prohibition in the 1920s, the islands served as a base for the supply of liquor to the US mainland. During World War II, the Allies centred their flight training and anti-submarine operations for the Caribbean in the Bahamas. Since then, the Bahamas has developed into a major tourist and financial services centre. The Bahamas achieved self-government through a series of constitutional and political steps, attaining internal self-government in 1964 and full independence within the Commonwealth on 10 July 1973.

Eighty-five per cent of the Bahamian population is of African heritage. About two-thirds of the population reside on New Providence (the location of Nassau). Many have ancestors who arrived in the Bahamas islands when they served as a staging area for the slave trade in the early 1800s. Others accompanied thousands of British loyalists who fled the American colonies during the Revolutionary War of British loyalists who fled the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Relations with Neighbours

The Bahamas is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic ), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA), and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).

Relations with the International Community

The Government of The Bahamas is involved in on-going discussions on economic co-operation and trade liberalisation involving the United States and Canada, and was engaged in the successful conclusion of Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Commission in December 2007.The Bahamas has applied to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where it currently enjoys Observer status, and has started negotiations on its accession.

Relations with the UK

Relations between The Bahamas and the UK are traditionally good. Since the closure of the resident British High Commission in 2005, the British High Commissioner has been based in Kingston, Jamaica. There is a British Honorary Consul in Nassau.

The Bahamas has a High Commission in London and the High Commissioner is His Excellency Mr Paul H. Farquharson.

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GEOGRAPHY

The Bahamas is a 100,000 square mile archipelago southeast of Florida stretching 400 miles south to the Turks and Caicos Islands. The closest island to the US in Bimini, which is 50 miles off the coast to Florida. The islands are mostly flat, the highest point being Mount Alvernia on Cat Island, which is 206 feet above sea level. The climate is semitropical and the islands do not experience extremes of temperatures.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

The Bahamas continues to recover from sharp contractions in output from its two main economic engines, tourism and financial services, as a result of the 2009 global recession.

The government's economic stimulus programme is focused on improvements to Nassau International Airport and cruise ship and cargo port facilities, housing, electricity and water supplies, and to strengthening the police and defence forces.

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POLITICS

Government

The Bahamas has a parliamentary system of government in which the Governor-General represents the titular head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The Honourable Arthur D Hanna has held the office of Governor-General since February 2006.

Elections were held on 2 May 2007, when former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who had been in office from 1992 to 2002, led the opposition Free National Movement (FNM) to victory over the ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and their leader Prime Minister Perry Christie. The FNM won 23 seats as against 18 for PLP. 111 candidates contested the 41 single-member constituency seats and there was a turnout of over 92.1% of the 150,684 registered voters.

In 2003 the then government appointed a bi-partisan Constitutional Commission with the mandate to provide a comprehensive review of the constitution and to consider the method of amending it or adopting a new one. The Commission presented its preliminary report to Prime Minister Christie in March 2006. It proposed that The Bahamas should become a democratic parliamentary republic and that a President be elected or appointed by the two houses of Parliament as Head of State of The Bahamas. The final report will be published after a period of public consultation.

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Last Updated: May 2011

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