The Bahamas are an archipelago of about 700 islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays lying 50 mi off the east coast of Florida. They extend for about 760 mi (1,223 km). Only about 30 of the islands are inhabited; the most important is New Providence (80 sq mi; 207 sq km), on which the capital, Nassau, is situated. Other islands include Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, and San Salvador (or Watling's Island).
Government: Parliamentary democracy.
The Arawak Indians were the first inhabitants of the Bahamas. Columbus's first encounter with the New World was on Oct. 12, 1492, when he landed on the Bahamian island of San Salvador. The British first built settlements on the islands in the 17th century. In the early 18th century, the Bahamas were a favorite pirate haunt.
The Bahamas were a Crown colony from 1717 until they were granted internal self-government in 1964. The islands moved toward greater autonomy in 1968 after the overwhelming victory in general elections of the Progressive Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling, over the predominantly white United Bahamians Party. With its new mandate from the black population (85% of Bahamians), Pindling's government negotiated a new constitution with Britain under which the colony became the Commonwealth of the Bahama Islands in 1969. On July 10, 1973, the Bahamas became an independent nation.
Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)
Governor-General: Arthur Dion Hanna (2006)
Prime Minister: Hubert Ingraham (2007)
Land area: 3,888 sq mi (10,070 sq km); total area: 5,382 sq mi 13,940 sq km)
Population (2010 est.): 310,426 (growth rate: 0.9%); birth rate: 16.25/1000; infant mortality rate: 13.6/1000; life expectancy: 70.8; density per sq km: 30
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Nassau, 222,200
Monetary unit: Bahamian dollar
Languages: English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Ethnicity/race: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%
Religions: Baptist 35%, Anglican 15%, Roman Catholic 14%, Pentecostal 8%, Church of God 5%, Methodist 4%, other Christian 15% (2000)
National Holiday: Independence Day, July 10
Literacy rate: 95.6% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2009 est.): $9.084 billion; per capita $29,800. Real growth rate: -4%. Inflation: 2.4% (2007 est.). Unemployment: 7.6%. Arable land: 0.58%. Agriculture: citrus, vegetables; poultry. Labor force: 176,300 (2004); agriculture 5%, industry 5%, tourism 50%, other services 40% (2005 est.). Industries: tourism, banking, cement, oil transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipe. Natural resources: salt, aragonite, timber, arable land. Exports: $674 million (2006 est.): mineral products and salt, animal products, rum, chemicals, fruit and vegetables. Imports: $2.4 billion (2006 est.): machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, mineral fuels; food and live animals. Major trading partners: U.S., Poland, Spain, Germany, France, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, Italy, Venezuela (2004).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 139,900 (2004); mobile cellular: 186,000 (2004). Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 5, shortwave 0 (2006). Television broadcast stations: 2 (2006). Internet hosts: 359 (2005). Internet users: 93,000 (2005).
Transportation: Railways: 0 km. Highways: total: 2,693 km; paved: 1,546 km; unpaved: 1,147 km (1999). Ports and harbors: Freeport, Nassau, South Riding Point. Airports: 64 (2005).
International disputes: disagrees with the US on the alignment of the maritime boundary; continues to monitor and interdict Haitian refugees fleeing economic privation and political instability .