Nassau • Freeport • West End • Coopers Town • Marsh Harbour • Freetown • High Rock • Andros Town • Spanish Wells • Clarence Town • Dunmore Town • Rock Sound • Arthur's Town • Cockburn Town • George Town • Alice Town • Sweeting Cay • Matthew Town • Snug Corner • Snug Corner • Nicholls Town • Colonel Hill • Pirates Well • Port Nelson • Duncan Town • Albert Town •
|BAHAMAS, THE COAT OF ARMS|
Location of The Bahamas
Map of The Bahamas
Flag Description of The Bahamas: three equal horizontal bands of aquamarine (top), gold, and aquamarine, with a black equilateral triangle based on the hoist side; the band colors represent the golden beaches of the islands surrounded by the aquamarine sea; black represents the vigor and force of a united people, while the pointing triangle indicates the enterprise and determination of the Bahamian people to develop the rich resources of land and sea
Official name The Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Form of government constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses (Senate ; House of Assembly )
Head of state British Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General: Dame Marguerite Pindling
Head of government Prime Minister: Perry Christie
Official language English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Bahamian dollar (B$)
Population (2013 est.) 368,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 5,382
Total area (sq km) 13,939
- Urban: (2011) 84.3%
- Rural: (2011) 15.7%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2007) 71 years
- Female: (2007) 77 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2005) 95%
- Female: (2005) 96.7%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 21,280
- 1 Background of The Bahamas
- 2 Geography of Bahamas
- 3 Demography of Bahamas
- 4 Economy of Bahamas
- 5 Government and society of Bahamas
- 6 Cultural life of Bahamas
- 7 History of Bahamas
- 8 Bahamas Facts
- 9 Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling
- 10 Bahamas, The : Constitution and politics
- 11 Bahamas, The in 2014
- 12 Hubert Ingraham
- 13 Freeport (Bahamas, The)
- 14 Disclaimer
Background of The Bahamas
Eighty-five percent of the Bahamian population is of African heritage. About two-thirds of the population resides on New Providence Island (the location of Nassau). Many ancestors arrived in The Bahamas when the islands 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.
The Bahamas, archipelago and state on the northwestern edge of the West Indies. Formerly a British colony, The Bahamas became an independent country within the Commonwealth in 1973.
The name Bahamas is of Lucayan Taino (Arawakan) derivation, although some historians believe it is from the Spanish bajamar, meaning “shallow water.” The islands occupy a position commanding the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the entire Central American region. Their strategic location has given the history of The Bahamas a unique and often striking character. It was there that Christopher Columbus made his original landfall in the Americas. The subsequent fate of the peaceful original inhabitants remains one of the more tragic episodes in the development of the entire region, while the early attempts at European-dominated settlement were marked by intense national rivalries, interspersed with long periods of lawlessness and piracy. As a result, the society and culture that has evolved in The Bahamas is a distinctive blend of European and African heritages, the latter a legacy of the slave trade and the introduction of the plantation system using African slaves. The islands, lacking natural resources other than their agreeable climate and picturesque beaches, have become heavily dependent on the income generated by the extensive tourist facilities and the financial sector that have been developed, often as a result of the injection of foreign capital. The continued popularity of the islands with tourists, largely from North America, has helped to maintain a relatively high standard of living among the population, most of whom are of African descent. The capital, Nassau, is located on small but important New Providence Island.
Geography of Bahamas
Lying to the north of Cuba and Hispaniola, the archipelago comprises nearly 700 islands and cays, only about 30 of which are inhabited, and more than 2,000 low, barren rock formations. It stretches more than 500 miles (800 km) southeast-northwest between Grand Bahama Island, which has an area of 530 square miles (1,373 square km) and lies about 60 miles (100 km) off the southeastern coast of the U.S. state of Florida, and Great Inagua Island, some 50 miles (80 km) from the eastern tip of Cuba. The islands other than New Providence are known collectively as the Out (Family) Islands. They include Grand Bahama, which contains the major settlements of Freeport and West End; Andros (2,300 square miles [6,000 square km]), the largest island of The Bahamas; Abaco, or Great Abaco, (372 square miles [963 square km]); and Eleuthera (187 square miles [484 square km]), the site of one of the early attempts at colonization.
- Relief and soils
The Bahamas occupies an irregular submarine tableland that rises out of the depths of the Atlantic Ocean and is separated from nearby lands to the south and west by deepwater channels. Extensive areas of flatland, generally a few feet in elevation, are the dominant topographic features of the major islands; the Bimini group (9 square miles [23 square km]), for example, has a maximum elevation of only 20 feet (6 metres). A number of islands fronting the Atlantic have a range or series of ranges of hills on the northeastern side that parallel the longer axes of the islands. These ranges are formed of sand washed ashore and blown inland by the trade winds. The newer hills adjacent to the seashore are normally sand dunes. Solidity increases toward the interior, where the particles become cemented to form Bahama limestone. Eleuthera and Long Island (230 square miles [596 square km]) have the greatest number of hills exceeding 100 feet (30 metres). The highest point in The Bahamas, Mount Alvernia, at 206 feet (63 metres), is on Cat Island (150 square miles [388 square km]). Beneath the soil, the islands are composed of limestone rock and skeletal remains of coral fossils and other marine organisms. There are no rivers, but several islands—particularly New Providence, San Salvador (63 square miles [163 square km]), and Great Inagua—have large lakes. There is abundant fresh water on Andros Island.
The Bahamian climate, mild throughout the year, is one of the great attractions of the area. The average temperature varies from the low 70s F (about 21 °C) during the winter to the low 80s F (about 27 °C) during the summer, and extremes seldom fall below the low 60s F (about 16 °C) or rise above the low 90s F (about 32 °C). The average annual rainfall is about 44 inches (1,120 mm), occurring mostly during the summer months. Prevailing winds, coming from the northeast in winter and from the southeast in summer, lend a cooling influence to a generally humid atmosphere. Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) pose a threat during the period from June to November and have occasionally caused great destruction.
- Plant and animal life
Extensive and beautiful forests of Caribbean pine are found on Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, and New Providence islands. Hardwood forests also occur on some of the islands. Elsewhere the woody vegetation consists mostly of shrubs and low trees. Animal life is dominated by frogs, lizards, and snakes, all of them nonpoisonous, and several species of bats are found in caves along the more rocky coasts. Larger animals include the agouti, a rodent; the raccoon; the iguana; and the elegant flamingo, the national bird. All of these have been much reduced in numbers and in distribution. In addition, several animals—notably sheep, horses, and other livestock—have been introduced from Europe. The surrounding waters abound with fish and other edible marine animals, such as conch and spiny lobster (crayfish).
Demography of Bahamas
- Ethnic groups, languages, and religion
Most of the population of The Bahamas is of African descent. There is a small but significant minority of mixed European and African heritage and a similar number of descendants of English pioneer settlers and loyalist refugees from the American Revolution. English is the only language native to Bahamians, although, because of the influx of Haitian immigrants since the mid-20th century, French or its Haitian Creole dialect is spoken. A high percentage of Bahamians are members of Christian churches; the majority of them are non-Anglican Protestants, with smaller proportions of Roman Catholics and Anglicans.
- Settlement patterns and demographic trends
The centres of population are widely distributed on each island. Some are located leeward, where it is calm and sheltered—for example, Cat Island. Others face the north and northeastern sides, where they are exposed to the northeast trade winds—as in the case of the Abaco Cays (the cays off Abaco and Little Abaco islands). Main settlements usually occur where there is a natural harbour or at least accessibility for shipping. There has been a marked shift of population from fishing and farming villages to the centres of tourist and commercial activity. Most of the population movement has been to the islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Abaco (Great Abaco). About two-thirds of the Bahamian population is concentrated on New Providence Island, which, with Grand Bahama and Abaco, has received the most internal migration.
The country’s rate of population increase is much higher than the Caribbean average, primarily because of immigration from the United States and other West Indian islands. The rate of natural population increase is about average for the Caribbean region, but both the birth and death rates are less than the average for the West Indies as a whole.
Economy of Bahamas
In spite of the concentration of the population in urban centres (especially Nassau and Freeport) that are devoted to tourism, the traditional pattern of small farming and fishing prevails in some villages, notably in the southeastern islands. The Bahamas has a predominantly market economy that is heavily dependent on tourism and international financial services. The gross national product (GNP) per capita is one of the highest in the region.
- Agriculture and fishing
Agriculture accounts for a very small portion of the GNP and employs a comparable proportion of the workforce. Only a tiny fraction of the land is arable, and soils are shallow. Nearly all of the country’s foodstuffs are imported, largely from the United States. However, the sunny climate favours the cultivation of many fruits, including tomato, pineapple, banana, mango, guava, sapodilla (the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree), soursop, grapefruit, and sea grape. Some pigs, sheep, and cattle are raised. The small fishing industry’s catch is dominated by spiny lobster, grouper, and conch.
- Resources and power
Mineral industries are limited to the production of salt and cement. Electricity is generated entirely from imported petroleum and liquefied natural gas. Power-generating stations are located throughout the islands.
Manufacturing industries centre on the production of rum and other liquor. Other manufactures include cement and pharmaceuticals, and canned fruits and frozen spiny lobster are processed. The Industries Encouragement Act (1970) offers manufacturers relief from tariffs and various taxes.
Some of the country’s principal trading partners are South Korea, the United States, Brazil, Japan, and Spain. Major imports include machinery and transport equipment, food products, and mineral fuels; major exports are petroleum and rock lobster. The United States exempts certain Bahamian products from duties under the Generalized System of Preferences.
- Services and finance
Tourism accounts for more than one-third of the GNP and employs about two-fifths of the workforce. It centres on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands; most tourists come from the United States. Several hundred banks and trust companies have been attracted to The Bahamas because there are no income or corporate taxes and because the secrecy of financial transactions is guaranteed. Public expenditures are constrained by the government’s dependence on indirect taxes, which are levied primarily on tourism and external trade. The national bank is the Central Bank of The Bahamas, established in 1974. The national currency is the Bahamian dollar; U.S. currency is also accepted throughout the islands.
Nassau and Freeport and their environs have paved road systems, as do most of the inhabited islands. A fleet of small motor vessels known as mail boats carries passengers, freight, and mail between Nassau and the Out Islands. Nassau and Freeport are the country’s two main ports. Freeport also has a large container transshipment port. Numerous foreign passenger and freight ships visit Bahamian ports each year. Throughout the islands there are dozens of airports, with varying accommodations and facilities. Most of these serve only interinsular aircraft, but international airports are located at Nassau, Freeport, and Exuma, and international flights also connect with several of the other Bahamian islands.
Government and society of Bahamas
- Constitutional framework
The constitution of The Bahamas, adopted upon independence in 1973, is patterned on the Westminster model—i.e., that of the United Kingdom. The bicameral parliament comprises the House of Assembly and the Senate, whose powers are relatively restricted compared with those of the House. The formal head of state is the British monarch, who is represented by a governor-general. The head of government is the prime minister, who is formally appointed by the governor-general. The prime minister must be a member of the House of Assembly and must be able to command a majority of its votes. House members are elected by universal adult suffrage; the members of the Senate are appointed by the governor. The term of parliament is five years, but elections may be held sooner if the prime minister is unable to retain a majority in the House or dissolves the House and calls early elections. Judicial power on the islands resides in the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, and magistrates’ courts.
- Political process
All Bahamian citizens 18 years of age and older can vote. Bahamians, women in particular, generally remained unpoliticized until the early 1950s. Women did not obtain the franchise until 1962. Great changes also came with increased educational opportunities after the 1960s. The first female member of parliament was elected in 1982. Since that time there have been female cabinet ministers, legislators, and Supreme Court justices. The main political parties are the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP; founded 1953), which led the movement for government by the majority in the 1950s and ’60s, and the Free National Movement (FNM; 1972), which grew out of the PLP.
Schooling is compulsory from age 5 to 16 and is free in government schools. Most schools are government-run, but there are also private and denominational institutions. More than nine-tenths of the population is literate.
The College of The Bahamas, established in 1974 in Nassau, offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in most areas and master’s degrees in a limited number of subjects. It also offers programs in conjunction with other universities, including the University of the West Indies, Florida International University, and the University of Miami.
Other higher-level institutions include a hotel training school sponsored by the government and the hotel industry, the Bahamas Law School of the University of the West Indies, and a campus of Sojourner-Douglass College, an institution based in Baltimore, Md., that offers undergraduate and graduate programs.
- Health and welfare
Bahamians are relatively free of malnutrition and debilitating diseases, and medical problems among children are largely those involving common infections. Increasing alcohol and drug abuse, obesity, and HIV/AIDS have become concerns, and care for the aged is a mounting problem. Life expectancy increased greatly in the second half of the 20th century and is comparable to that of neighbouring Caribbean countries.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development administers public health services through community clinics throughout The Bahamas and offers home and district nursing and disease surveillance. There are several public hospitals in Nassau and Freeport, and there are rural health clinics on Grand Bahama and its surrounding cays. Privately operated hospitals are located in Nassau and Freeport. The Department of Environmental Health Services oversees the management, control, and conservation of the environment.
Although the success of the tourism and financial sectors brought about improvements in everyday economic conditions for many Bahamians, there is still an extremely uneven distribution of wealth. The situation is not helped by the fact that the poorest and least educated have the largest families and live in the most crowded and economically depressed areas. This trend very often leads to social problems, such as increases in crime and family disruption. The government has tried to address this problem by sponsoring extensive housing developments.
Cultural life of Bahamas
Bahamian culture is an amalgam of its African and European heritages. It has also been influenced by the peoples of the Caribbean and the Americas.
- Daily life and social customs
Family life is important to most Bahamians; however, the incidence of formal marriages decreased throughout the late 20th century. An increasing number of households are headed by a single woman, usually the mother. Before the 1940s, traditionally, women tended to be stay-at-home mothers and wives. Now, as a result of increased educational opportunities and the development of the tourist industry, most women work outside the home. Moreover, by the late 20th century, Bahamian women had begun attaining top positions in public service, banking, law, medicine, politics, and other professions.
Middle- and upper-class Bahamian families usually employ a maid or domestic helper. Poorer families share the housework. Staple foods include grits, potatoes, bread, conch, fish, spiny lobster, chicken, and imported meats. National dishes are peas and rice, potato salad, macaroni and cheese, cracked conch, conch salad, fried and steamed fish, and fried chicken. Guava duff, a boiled mixture of fruit and dough that is served with a butter sauce, is a popular dessert.
Folk customs include the asue (a collective savings association), friendly societies and lodges, a strong tradition of storytelling, and the use of bush medicine. Outstanding among traditional group activities is the premier festival and celebration, Junkanoo. Junkanoo parades, or “rush outs,” are held annually on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day in Nassau and on some of the Out Islands. Nassau’s Bay Street is the site of the largest parade, which features thousands of junkanoos, men dressed in colourful costumes fringed with crepe paper and decorated with beads, feathers, and sequins. Participants create the music and dance to the pulsating rhythms of goatskin drums, cowbells, whistles, horns, and brass instruments. Prizes are given for the best costumes, music, dance, and theme portrayal.
- The arts
Bahamian folklore includes stories of a three-toed, human-faced creature called the chickcharney, the workings of obia (obeah)—a folk religion that employs witchcraft—and folktales featuring the characters of B’Booky, B’Rabbit, and B’Anansi (see trickster tale). Religious songs or spirituals are sung at important social gatherings and wakes; these include wake, or “setting up,” songs with biblical themes. Rhyming songs (spiritual and secular) are also popular. Traditional ring dances and quadrilles are still practiced, and dancing to the beat of goombay (sometimes also known as rake and scrape), calypso, or soca (a blend of traditional calypso and Indian rhythmic instruments) music is a popular pastime.
- Cultural institutions
The arts, including painting, sculpture, and photography, as well as crafts, have blossomed in The Bahamas, and the country has several prominent institutions devoted to their cultivation. The Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts, in Nassau, presents dramas, musicals, and dance performances. Art and crafts can be seen at a variety of galleries, including the National Art Gallery, located in a mansion overlooking Nassau Harbour. The Department of Archives preserves public and private records and makes them accessible to the public. The Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation regulates and controls antiquities, monuments, museums, and archaeology. The Bahamas Historical Society, in Nassau, operates a museum and publishes a scholarly journal.
- Sports and recreation
The Bahamas is famed for its long sandy beaches, clear waters, and spectacular coral reefs. Divers flock to the islands not only to view the colourful coral gardens, sharks, rays, moray eels, and other abundant marine life but also to explore the numerous shipwrecks—a legacy of the tricky shallow waters and of the marauding pirates who once cruised the region. Snorkeling, windsurfing, deep-sea fishing, and sailing are also popular water sports, and almost every inhabited island hosts a sailing regatta or fishing tournament each year. For those who prefer less-strenuous water activities, the islands offer stretches of beautiful deserted beaches and gentle reef-protected waters. The Bahamas National Trust is concerned with the preservation of wildlife and the conservation of some two dozen national parks, including Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (established 1959).
Many Bahamians play and follow cricket and football (soccer), as might be expected from the islands’ historical association with Britain. Basketball is growing in popularity. Bahamians also have excelled at athletics (track and field), tennis, and yachting. The Bahamas Olympic Association was formed in 1952.
History of Bahamas
On Oct. 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the New World, made landfall somewhere in the Bahama Islands. It is widely held that he first landed on an island called by its native inhabitants Guanahani, which Columbus renamed San Salvador. The actual location is still in dispute; some scholars believe it is the place known today as San Salvador (sometimes called Watling Island), while others claim that the site was Samana Cay or Cat Island. Whatever the case, Columbus explored the island and others nearby and then sailed to Cuba and Hispaniola. The natives of the Bahama Islands, Lucayan Tainos who had settled the archipelago from Hispaniola by 800 ce, were a peaceful people who spoke an Arawakan language.
Although Columbus took formal possession of the islands with pomp and ceremony in the name of Spain, and under the Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal in 1494 the islands were within the Spanish sphere, the Spanish made little attempt to settle them. Between 1492 and 1508, Spanish raiders carried off about 40,000 natives to work in the mines of Hispaniola, and the islands remained depopulated for more than a century before the first English settlement was established.
- British colonization
British interest began in 1629 when Charles I granted Robert Heath, attorney general of England, territories in America including “Bahama and all other Isles and Islands lying southerly there or neare upon the foresayd continent.” Heath, however, made no effort to settle the Bahamas. Nevertheless, in the 1640s the religious disputes among English colonists in Bermuda came to involve the Bahamas. In 1647 Capt. William Sayle, who had twice been governor of Bermuda, took the leadership of an enterprise to seek an island upon which dissidents could worship as they pleased. In July of that year the Company of Eleutherian Adventurers was formed in London “for the Plantation of the Islands of Eleutheria, formerly called Buhama in America, and the Adjacent Islands.” Sayle and about 70 prospective settlers, consisting of Bermudan religious Independents and some persons who had come from England, sailed from Bermuda for the Bahamas sometime before October 1648. The place of their landing is uncertain, but the modern belief is that they settled on Eleuthera, then known as Cigatoo. They had envisioned establishing a flourishing plantation colony, but unproductive soil, internal discord, and Spanish interference dashed their hopes. Some of the settlers, including Sayle, returned to Bermuda.
New Providence was first settled about 1666 by a new group of Bermudans. In 1663 South Carolina, on the mainland of North America, had been granted by Charles II to eight of his friends as lords proprietors, and they later appointed Sayle as South Carolina’s first governor. Both Sayle and certain of those who had interested themselves in the settlement of New Providence independently drew the attention of the lords proprietors to the possibilities of the Bahama Islands. In consequence, the duke of Albemarle and five others acquired a grant of the islands from Charles II in 1670, and they accepted nominal responsibility for the civil government. New Providence, with the largest population and a sheltered harbour, became the seat of government.
The proprietors did not take a very active interest in the settlement or development of the islands, which soon became a haven for pirates, whose depredations against Spanish ships provoked frequent and savage retaliatory raids. In 1671 the proprietors appointed John Wentworth as the first governor. Although elaborate instructions for the government of the colony were issued and a parliamentary system of government was instituted, the lot of both governor and settlers was far from easy. New Providence was often overrun by the Spaniards alone or in combination with the French, while any governor attempting to institute a semblance of law and order received short shrift from the settlers, who had found piracy the most lucrative profession. In 1684 Charles II himself intervened and required that a law be passed against the pirates, but apparently it had little effect.
Early in the 18th century, official representations were being made for direct crown control. The lords proprietors surrendered the civil and military government to the king in 1717 and leased the islands to Capt. Woodes Rogers, whom the king commissioned as the first royal governor and charged with the responsibility of exterminating pirates and establishing more stable conditions. When he arrived in 1718, armed with a disciplined troop of soldiers, about 1,000 pirates surrendered and received the king’s pardon, while eight of the unrepentant were hanged. Rogers’s measures were so effective that the colony was able to adopt the motto “Expulsis piratis restituta commercia” (“Pirates repulsed, commerce restored”).
Charles Towne was settled in 1660 and named for Charles II, but its name was changed to Nassau after William III came to the throne; the German region Nassau was a holding of William’s family. With the restoration of order following the establishment of the royal government, the settlers demanded an assembly. In 1729 Rogers, acting under authority from the crown, issued a proclamation summoning a representative assembly, and from then on, apart from brief interruptions caused by foreign invasion, the government of the colony carried on in an orderly manner.
In 1776 the town of Nassau was captured by the U.S. Navy, which was seeking supplies during the American Revolution; they evacuated after a few days. In May 1782 the colony surrendered to Spain. Although it was restored to Britain by the preliminary articles of the Peace of Paris in January 1783, it was nonetheless brilliantly recaptured in April by Col. Andrew Devaux, a loyalist commander, before news of the treaty had been received. On the conclusion of the American Revolution, many loyalists emigrated from the United States to the Bahamas under very favourable terms offered by the crown. Among the newcomers was Lord Dunmore, formerly governor of New York and of Virginia, who served as governor of the Bahamas from 1786 to 1797. The loyalists who fled to the islands brought their slaves with them, increasing the population several-fold. The cotton plantations that they developed, which used slave labour, yielded well for a few years, but the exhaustion of the soil, the depredations of insect pests, and, finally, the abolition of slavery led to their ultimate collapse. In 1787 the lords proprietors surrendered their remaining rights for £12,000.
As in the Caribbean generally, the Bahama Islands experienced a number of slave revolts during the years leading to abolition. Efforts made by the assembly in the early 19th century to thwart the attempts of the executive to ameliorate conditions for the slaves continued until the United Kingdom Abolition Act came into force in the colony on Aug. 1, 1834; full emancipation came in 1838. A legislative council was created by royal letters patent in 1841.
Following emancipation, the general condition of the West Indies was one of poverty and disillusionment. Former slaves and ex-masters struggled to exist. Many took to subsistence farming, and others remained on the land of their former owners and worked on the share system. There was hardly any circulation of money in the Out Islands, and many communities were tied by a system of payment in truck—that is, payment in kind. Considerable wealth poured into the islands as the result of blockade-running during the American Civil War (1861–65) and the handling of liquor during Prohibition in the 1920s in the United States (see prohibition). This activity made no lasting contribution to the islands, however, nor did it establish any firm economic base. Before and after these periods, many attempts were made to grow pineapples, citrus fruits, tobacco, tomatoes, and sisal for export, but, despite initial promise, all failed. Sponge fishing also collapsed in 1938. Finally, after World War II, strenuous efforts to establish tourism as the basis of the economy were strikingly successful, transforming the economic and social structure of the islands.
Politically, Bahamians have had considerable control over their affairs since the first assembly in 1729. In May 1963 a conference was held in London to consider a new constitution for the islands. It was then agreed that the colony should have full internal self-government, the governor retaining reserved powers only for foreign affairs, defense, and internal security. The new constitution came into force on Jan. 7, 1964, and constitutional advances in 1969 brought the country to the verge of complete self-government.
Party politics had emerged in 1953, when the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was formed by Bahamians of African descent to oppose the group in power, who in 1958 responded with a party of their own, the United Bahamian Party (UBP), controlled by British-descended politicians. As the political battle progressed, the PLP raised the cry for majority rule. The climax came after the general elections of 1967, when the PLP, under the leadership of Lynden Pindling, was able to form a government with a slight majority.
In general the PLP advocated stricter government control of the economy, increasing Bahamian ownership of business enterprises and the replacement of foreign workers by Bahamians. Although the move toward self-government received bipartisan support, some factions advocated that total independence should come later than 1973, the year targeted by the PLP government. In 1969 the name Commonwealth of the Bahama Islands was adopted, but upon independence, on July 10, 1973, the official form became The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The PLP maintained its position as the majority party after independence. The main opposition was formed by the Free National Movement (FNM), established in 1972 through a merger between the UBP and alienated anti-independence PLP members calling themselves the Free PLP. The government embarked on programs to improve economic development, increase the standard of living, and halt the rising unemployment rate. The Bahamas is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom; joined 1983), the United Nations (1973), UNESCO (1981), the Organization of American States (1982), and the Commonwealth (1973). Alleged collusion with drug traffickers by members of the government became a major issue and threatened PLP power in the late 1980s. Another serious, and ongoing, problem has been the periodic arrival of waves of legal and illegal immigrants from Haiti, placing a strain on social and economic resources. In the August 1992 general elections, the FNM swept into power, winning 31 of the 49 seats in the House of Assembly. The party increased its majority in the 1997 elections, winning 35 of the 40 seats. The PLP regained ascendancy in the 2002 elections but was again swept out by the FNM in 2007.
Where is the Bahamas? The Bahamas is a cluster of islands in the North Atlantic. It spans over an area of 5,358 sq miles. The Bahamas has Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti (Hispaniola) to its south- west, the Turks and Caicos Islands to the north-west and has a total coastline of 2,200 miles.
Which is the capital of the Bahamas? The capital of the Bahamas is Nassau. This is also the largest city. It occupies an area of 80sq mi and has a population of about 248,948. Formerly known as Charles Town, Nassau is situated in the New Providence Island. It is 180 miles south-east of Miami and is a major tourist center.
How big is the Bahamas? The total area of the Bahamas is 5,358 square miles. Its geographic coordinates are 25 05N, 77 21W. As of 2010, the estimated population of the Commonwealth was 353,658.
Which are the best months to visit the Bahamas? The Bahamas has a tropical climate. In winter, it is largely influenced by the warm Gulf Stream. In summer and autumn the islands are prone to hurricanes. The Bahamas has been hit several times by Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Floyd, and Hurricane Irene. Temperatures are known to fall as low as 2 - 3 ° C in the winters. February through April and November - December are the best months to visit the Bahamas.
What are the important cities of the Bahamas? Important cities in the Bahamas are Nassau, Freeport, Georgetown, Governor's Harbour, Marsh Harbour, and Stella Marris. These are also important tourist destinations.
What is the currency of the Bahamas? The currency of the Bahamas is the Bahamian Dollar (BSD), issued by the Central Bank of the Bahamas. It is the official currency of the Bahamas since 1966. 1 Bahamian Dollar is the equivalent of 100 Bahamian cents.
What are the main languages of the Bahamas? English is the official language of the Bahamas. Other languages spoken here include Haitian Creole, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Continental French, German, Italian, Hindi, Tagalog.
What are the prominent festivals and holidays of the Bahamas? The majority of population in the Bahamas is Christian. Hence all major Christian holidays such as Good Friday, Easter, White Monday, Christmas, and Boxing Day are observed. New Year's Day is celebrated across the islands. Other public holidays are Labor Day, Emancipation Day (August 6), National Day (October 2), Columbus Day (October 8), Discovery Day (October 12), and Chung Yeung Festival (October 23). Besides these, all groups are free to celebrate the festivals of their respective communities.
What are the ethnic groups of The Bahamas? Among the ethnic groups, the Blacks constitute 85% of the population of the Bahamas, followed by the Whites (12%). Asians and Hispanics make up for about 3% of the population
Which is the major religion in the Bahamas? Of the overall population of the Bahamas as 67.6% are Protestants. Other Christian groups in the islands include Baptists, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, and Methodists. There are people from other religions as well. The nation is tolerant of all religions and people are free to practice any religion of their choice.
Which are the major sectors of the economt of the Bahamas? It is one of richest countries of the Caribbean. The Bahamas has a GDP of $9.093 billion and a real growth rate of 0.95%. 50% of its labor force is employed with the tourism sector. The unemployment rate is 7.6%. Tourism is vital to the economy of the Bahamas as it contributes about 60% of its GDP. Financial services sector follows next by contributing 17% to GDP. The financial sector of the Bahamas is dependent on offshore banking. The major bank of the nation is The Central Bank of The Bahamas. Large scale agricultural practices are rare and 80% of the food is imported. Agriculture and fisheries contribute a mere 5% to the GDP. The major exports include rum, fruits and vegetables, salt, aragonite, and animal products. The Bahamas is a tax haven and does not impose any income tax, corporate tax, capital gains tax, value-added tax (VAT), or wealth tax on its citizens. The contribution of tax revenue to GDP is 18.7%. The nation has an inflation rate of 2.8%.
What type of government does the Bahamas have? Queen Elizabeth II is the nominal head of the Bahamas and is represented by the Governor-General. The government is a Parliamentary Democracy headed by the Prime Minister and his cabinet. There are 32 local governments in the districts where elections are held every three years. The Department of Lands and Local Government formulates policies for administration of the districts. Individuals of the age of 18 and above are allowed voting rights by the Parliamentary Registration Department. The Constitution of The Bahamas was adopted on June 20, 1973 and enforced on July 10, 1973. There are three branches of the government -
- The Executive is headed by Queen Elizabeth II and represented in the country by the Governor-General. The leader of the majority party is elected as the Prime Minister. The current Governor-General is Arthur Foulkes and the Prime Minister is Perry Christie.
- Legislature is bicameral - the Senate (Upper Chamber) and the House of Assembly (Lower House) are the two houses. The Senate has 16 members appointed by the Governor-General by the advice of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition party. The House of Assembly has 38 members elected from various districts. The major political parties of the Bahamas are Free National Movement, Progressive Liberal Party, and *Bahamas Democratic Movement.
Judiciary of the Bahamas follows the English Common Law. The Supreme Court is the highest court of justice of the State. The Justices (judges) of the Supreme Court and other Magistrates are appointed by the Governor- General in due consultation with the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition party.
Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling
Prime minister of The Bahamas
Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling , (born March 22, 1930, Nassau, Bahamas, British West Indies—died August 26, 2000, Nassau, The Bahamas), Bahamian politician who, as prime minister (1967–92), guided the Bahamas to independence in 1973 and was considered the country’s founding father.
Pindling studied at the Bahamas Government High School (1943–46) and at King’s College, University of London (1948–52), from which he received a law degree. He was called to the British bar in 1953 and soon after returned home to practice law. Later that year he helped found the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which represented the interests of the black community in the Bahamas. He became party treasurer and was chosen parliamentary leader soon after being elected to parliament in the 1956 general elections. In 1967 he became the Bahamas’ first black prime minister and six years later oversaw the country’s independence from Britain. Known to his supporters as the “Black Moses,” Pindling steered The Bahamas through long years of burgeoning tourism and economic growth and won reelection five times (1968, 1972, 1977, 1982, and 1987). His tenure ended when he and the PLP were defeated in the 1992 general elections amid economic decline and unproven accusations of official corruption and of taking bribes from illegal drug traffickers. In 1997 he resigned as leader of the opposition and retired from politics. Pindling was knighted in 1983.
Bahamas, The : Constitution and politics
Status: Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II Legislature: Parliament Independence:10 July 1973
The Bahamas is a constitutional monarchy recognising Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. She is represented by a Governor-General chosen on the advice of the cabinet. The country is a parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature. The Senate has 16 members, nine appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, four on the advice of the opposition leader, and three after joint discussions. The House of Assembly (presently of 38 elected members, 41 before the 2012 elections, 40 before the 2007 elections and 49 before the 1997 elections) is directly elected on a district basis for a term not exceeding five years; elections are on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
A commission meets at intervals of not less than five years to review the constituency boundaries. The constitution allows for three distinct types of legislation: the ‘specially entrenched’ provisions relating to parliament itself and the judicial system require a three-quarters majority in both houses and a popular referendum; ‘entrenched’ provisions require a two-thirds majority in both houses; and other legislation a simple majority vote.
In January 2012, the government introduced changes in the Bahamas Parliamentary Elections Act that allowed limited overseas voting for nationals and permitted independent observers to observe the election process.
The March 1997 elections were won by the Free National Movement (FNM), led by Hubert Ingraham, securing 34 seats, the remaining seats being taken by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). After the elections Sir Lynden Pindling, who had led the PLP for 32 years, stood down and was replaced by Perry Christie.
In May 2002, the PLP won a landslide victory, taking 29 seats and Christie became Prime Minister. The FNM took seven and independents four.
Tommy Turnquest, who had succeeded Ingraham as FNM leader before the elections, lost his seat, but was subsequently appointed to the Senate.
Three years after stepping down as leader of the FNM, Hubert Ingraham returned to head the party in November 2005, subsequently leading it to victory in the general elections of May 2007 – FNM taking 23 seats and PLP 18. The turnout was 91 per cent of registered electors.
On the retirement of Arthur Dion Hanna in April 2010 Sir Arthur Foulkes succeeded him as Governor-General.
In the May 2012 general election the PLP won 29 seats and the FNM nine, and PLP leader Perry Christie was sworn in as Prime Minister. After the election Ingraham resigned as leader of the FNM.
Head of government
The Rt Hon Perry Gladstone Christie took office for a second term as Prime Minister of The Bahamas on 8 May 2012, following his Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) triumph at the general election on 7 May. He is concurrently Minister of Finance. Mr Christie previously served as prime minister from 2002 to 2007. He has been the Leader of the PLP since April 1997 when he was also appointed Leader of the Opposition. Mr Christie became Deputy Leader of the PLP in 1993. Prior to that, he served as Minister of Culture, Trade and Industry from 1990 to 1992, and Minister of Tourism from 1982 to 1984. In 1977, he was elected to parliament and subsequently served as Minister of Health and National Insurance, Minister of Tourism and Minister of Agriculture, Trade and Industry. Mr Christie, an attorney-at-law, is believed to have been the youngest Bahamian to be appointed to the Senate, where he served from 1974 to 1977. Mr Christie is a law graduate of the University Tutorial College, London, and Birmingham University. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales (Inner Temple) and to The Bahamas Bar in 1969. Mr Christie was born in Nassau on 21 August 1943.
Bahamas, The Area: 13,939 sq km (5,382 sq mi) Population (2014 est.): 374,000 Capital: Nassau Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governors-General Sir Arthur Foulkes and, from July 8.---->read on
Prime minister of The Bahamas
Hubert Ingraham, in full Hubert Alexander Ingraham (born August 4, 1947, Pine Ridge, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas), Bahamian political leader who served three terms as prime minister (1992–2002; 2007–12).
Ingraham was educated at local schools in the Bahamas. He became a member of the bar in 1972 and entered into a private law practice. He served on various public agencies and during the 1970s became a member of the top decision-making circles of the ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). A protégé of Sir Lynden Pindling, considered to be the founding father of The Bahamas, he was elected to the House of Assembly as a PLP member in 1977 and was reelected in 1982, and he served in the cabinet as the minister of housing, national insurance, and social services from 1982 to 1984. After making charges that the Pindling government had become corrupt, Ingraham was dismissed from the cabinet in 1984, but he won reelection to the House of Assembly in 1987 as an independent. He joined the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1990 and was the leader of the official opposition from 1990 to 1992. When the FNM won the 1992 elections for the House of Assembly, Ingraham replaced Pindling as prime minister.
Ingraham not only pledged to rid the government of corruption and to conduct an open administration but also emphasized economic renewal for the country. He promoted liberalized policies designed to encourage foreign investment, as well as measures to increase tourism, which remained the mainstay of the country’s economy. He also set forth a program to privatize a number of industries, including tourist hotels. In the 1997 parliamentary elections the FNM won a decisive majority, and Ingraham began a second five-year term as prime minister.
In the 2002 general election the FNM was defeated by the PLP. Although the loss was decisive, with the FNM losing 28 of its 35 parliamentary seats, by the time of the 2007 general election the party’s fortunes had improved. The FNM, under Ingraham’s leadership, won the May elections by a comfortable margin, and he took office as prime minister once again. During his administration, however, the country was plagued by a rising crime rate and high unemployment, and a perceived lack of progress on those issues led to public dissatisfaction with the government. In the May 2012 general elections the PLP defeated the FNM and returned to power. Although Ingraham won reelection to his seat in the House of Assembly, he announced his retirement from politics.
Freeport The Bahamas town, southwestern shore of Grand Bahama Island, The Bahamas, West Indies. In 1955 the colonial Bahamian government entered into the so-called Hawksbill Creek Agreement ...>>>read on<<<
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