Photos of Bahamas, The

Introduction

Background

Lucayan 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. Piracy thrived in the 17th and 18th centuries because of The Bahamas close proximity to shipping lanes. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas has prospered through tourism, international banking, and investment management, which comprise up to 85% of GDP. Because of its proximity to the US - the nearest Bahamian landmass being only 80 km (50 mi) from Florida - the country is a major transshipment point for illicit trafficking, particularly to the US mainland, as well as Europe. US law enforcement agencies cooperate closely with The Bahamas, and the US Coast Guard assists Bahamian authorities in coastal defense through Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, or OPBAT.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba

Geographic coordinates

24 15 N, 76 00 W

Map references

Central America and the Caribbean

Area

total: 13,880 sq km

land: 10,010 sq km

water: 3,870 sq km

country comparison to the world: 160

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Connecticut

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

3,542 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream

Terrain

long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills

Elevation

highest point: 1.3 km NE of Old Bight on Cat Island 64 m

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

salt, aragonite, timber, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 1.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 51.4% (2018 est.)

other: 47.2% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

10 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

700 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

most of the population lives in urban areas, with two-thirds living on New Providence Island where Nassau is located

Natural hazards

hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba; extensive island chain of which 30 are inhabited

People and Society

Population

352,655 (July 2021 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

country comparison to the world: 178

Nationality

noun: Bahamian(s)

adjective: Bahamian

Ethnic groups

Black 90.6%, White 4.7%, mixed 2.1%, other 1.9%, unspecified 0.7% (2010 est.)

note: data represent population by racial group

Languages

English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)

Religions

Protestant 69.9% (includes Baptist 34.9%, Anglican 13.7%, Pentecostal 8.9% Seventh Day Adventist 4.4%, Methodist 3.6%, Church of God 1.9%, Brethren 1.6%, other Protestant .9%), Roman Catholic 12%, other Christian 13% (includes Jehovah's Witness 1.1%), other 0.6%, none 1.9%, unspecified 2.6% (2010 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 21.7% (male 38,811/female 37,719)

15-24 years: 14.91% (male 26,636/female 25,945)

25-54 years: 43.56% (male 76,505/female 77,119)

55-64 years: 10.75% (male 17,508/female 20,391)

65 years and over: 9.08% (male 12,587/female 19,434) (2021 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 41.5

youth dependency ratio: 30.6

elderly dependency ratio: 11

potential support ratio: 9.1 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 32.8 years

male: 31.7 years

female: 34 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 104

Birth rate

14.78 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 119

Death rate

6.34 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 140

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 79

Population distribution

most of the population lives in urban areas, with two-thirds living on New Providence Island where Nassau is located

Urbanization

urban population: 83.4% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.02% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

280,000 NASSAU (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.86 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.63 male(s)/female

total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

70 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 83

Infant mortality rate

total: 13.05 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 13.49 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 12.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 111

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 75.87 years

male: 72.93 years

female: 78.9 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 111

Drinking water source

improved: total: 98.9% of population

unimproved: total: 1.1% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.01 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

3 beds/1,000 population (2017)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 98.2% of population

unimproved: total: 1.8% of population (2017 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 25.8%

male: 20.8%

female: 31.6% (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 50

Environment

Environment - current issues

coral reef decay; solid waste disposal

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 17.56 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 1.79 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 0.23 megatons (2020 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 31 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

700 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Climate

tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream

Land use

agricultural land: 1.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0.2% (2018 est.)

forest: 51.4% (2018 est.)

other: 47.2% (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 61

Urbanization

urban population: 83.4% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.02% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 264,000 tons (2015 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Commonwealth of The Bahamas

conventional short form: The Bahamas

etymology: name derives from the Spanish "baha mar," meaning "shallow sea," which describes the shallow waters of the Bahama Banks

Government type

parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm

Capital

name: Nassau

geographic coordinates: 25 05 N, 77 21 W

time difference: UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins second Sunday in March; ends first Sunday in November

etymology: named after William III (1650-1702), king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, who was a member of the House of Nassau

Administrative divisions

31 districts; Acklins Islands, Berry Islands, Bimini, Black Point, Cat Island, Central Abaco, Central Andros, Central Eleuthera, City of Freeport, Crooked Island and Long Cay, East Grand Bahama, Exuma, Grand Cay, Harbour Island, Hope Town, Inagua, Long Island, Mangrove Cay, Mayaguana, Moore's Island, North Abaco, North Andros, North Eleuthera, Ragged Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, South Abaco, South Andros, South Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, West Grand Bahama

Independence

10 July 1973 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 10 July (1973)

Constitution

history: previous 1964 (preindependence); latest adopted 20 June 1973, effective 10 July 1973

amendments: proposed as an "Act" by Parliament; passage of amendments to articles such as the organization and composition of the branches of government requires approval by at least two-thirds majority of the membership of both houses of Parliament and majority approval in a referendum; passage of amendments to constitutional articles such as fundamental rights and individual freedoms, the powers, authorities, and procedures of the branches of government, or changes to the Bahamas Independence Act 1973 requires approval by at least three-fourths majority of the membership of both houses and majority approval in a referendum; amended many times, last in 2016

Legal system

common law system based on the English model

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of The Bahamas

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 6-9 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Cornelius A. SMITH (since 28 June 2019)

head of government: Prime Minister Hubert MINNIS (since 11 May 2017)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by governor general on recommendation of prime minister

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; the prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

note: Prime Minister Hubert MINNIS is only the fourth prime minister in Bahamian history following its independence from the UK; he is also the first prime minister in 25 years besides Perry CHRISTIE and Hubert INGRAHAM, who repeatedly traded the premiership from 1992 to 2017

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
Senate (16 seats; members appointed by the governor general upon the advice of the prime minister and the opposition leader to serve 5-year terms)
House of Assembly (39 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)

elections:
Senate - last appointments on 24 May 2017 (next appointments in 2022)
House of Assembly - last held on 10 May 2017 (next to be held by May 2022)

election results:
Senate - appointed; composition - men 9, women 7, percent of women 43.8%
House of Assembly - percent of vote by party - FNM 57%, PLP 36.9%, other 6.1%; seats by party - FNM 35, PLP 4; composition - men 34, women 5, percent of women 12.8%; note - total Parliament percent of women 21.8%

note: the government may dissolve the parliament and call elections at any time

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Appeal (consists of the court president and 4 justices, organized in 3-member panels); Supreme Court (consists of the chief justice and a maximum of 11 and a minimum of 2 justices)

judge selection and term of office: Court of Appeal president and Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition party; other Court of Appeal and Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor general upon recommendation of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, a 5-member body headed by the chief justice; Court of Appeal justices appointed for life with mandatory retirement normally at age 68 but can be extended until age 70; Supreme Court justices appointed for life with mandatory retirement normally at age 65 but can be extended until age 67

subordinate courts: Industrial Tribunal; Stipendiary and Magistrates' Courts; Family Island Administrators

note: the Bahamas is a member of the 15-member Caribbean Community but is not party to the agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice as its highest appellate court;  the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (in London) serves as the final court of appeal for The Bahamas

Political parties and leaders

Democratic National Alliance or DNA [Christopher MORTIMER, interim leader]
Free National Movement or FNM [Hubert MINNIS]
Progressive Liberal Party or PLP [Philip "Brave" DAVIS]

International organization participation

ACP, AOSIS, C, Caricom, CDB, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, Petrocaribe, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Sidney Stanley COLLIE (since 29 November 2017)

chancery: 2220 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 319-2660

FAX: [1] (202) 319-2668

consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Miami, New York, Washington, DC

honorary consulate(s): Aurora (CO), Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d' Affaires Stephanie BOWERS (since 1 March 2018)

telephone: [1] (242) 322-1181, 328-2206 (after hours)

embassy: 42 Queen Street, Nassau, New Providence

mailing address: local or express mail address: P. O. Box N-8197, Nassau; US Department of State, 3370 Nassau Place, Washington, DC 20521-3370

FAX: [1] (242) 356-7174

Flag description

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

National symbol(s)

blue marlin, flamingo, Yellow Elder flower; national colors: aquamarine, yellow, black

National anthem

name: March On, Bahamaland!

lyrics/music: Timothy GIBSON

note: adopted 1973; as a Commonwealth country, in addition to the national anthem, "God Save the Queen" serves as the royal anthem (see United Kingdom)

Economy

Economic overview

The Bahamas has the second highest per capita GDP in the English-speaking Caribbean with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and financial services. Tourism accounts for approximately 50% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs half of the archipelago's labor force. Financial services constitute the second-most important sector of the Bahamian economy, accounting for about 15% of GDP. Manufacturing and agriculture combined contribute less than 7% of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. The new government led by Prime Minister Hubert MINNIS has prioritized addressing fiscal imbalances and rising debt, which stood at 75% of GDP in 2016. Large capital projects like the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel are driving growth. Public debt increased in 2017 in large part due to hurricane reconstruction and relief financing. The primary fiscal balance was a deficit of 0.4% of GDP in 2016. The Bahamas is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that is not a member of the World Trade Organization.

Real GDP growth rate

1.4% (2017 est.)

-1.7% (2016 est.)

1% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 159

Credit ratings

Moody's rating: Ba2 (2020)

Standard & Poors rating: BB- (2020)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$14.45 billion (2019 est.)

$14.276 billion (2018 est.)

$13.856 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 156

GDP (official exchange rate)

$12.16 billion (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$37,101 (2019 est.)

$37,020 (2018 est.)

$36,297 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 53

Gross national saving

29% of GDP (2019 est.)

18% of GDP (2018 est.)

19.6% of GDP (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 43

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.3% (2017 est.)

industry: 7.7% (2017 est.)

services: 90% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 68% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 13% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 26.3% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.7% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 33.7% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -41.8% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 59.9 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 87 (2020)

Trading score: 53.1 (2020)

Enforcement score: 59.1 (2020)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, grapefruit, vegetables, bananas, tomatoes, poultry, tropical fruit, oranges, coconuts, mangoes/guavas

Industries

tourism, banking, oil bunkering, maritime industries, transshipment and logistics, salt, aragonite, pharmaceuticals

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 3%

industry: 11%

services: 49%

tourism: 37% (2011 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1%

highest 10%: 22% (2007 est.)

Budget

revenues: 2.139 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 2.46 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

54.6% of GDP (2017 est.)

50.5% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 80

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Current account balance

-$1.909 billion (2017 est.)

-$868 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 166

Exports

$550 million (2017 est.)

$444.3 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 174

Exports - partners

Poland 32%, United States 17%, Ecuador 9%, China 6%, Japan 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

ships, refined petroleum, nitrogen compounds, crustaceans, styrene polymers (2019)

Imports

$3.18 billion (2017 est.)

$2.594 billion (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 151

Imports - partners

United States 31%, South Korea 29%, Japan 14% (2019)

Imports - commodities

ships, refined petroleum, crude petroleum, recreational boats, cars (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$1.522 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$1.002 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 125

Debt - external

$17.56 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

$16.35 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 98

Exchange rates

Bahamian dollars (BSD) per US dollar -

1 (2017 est.)

1 (2016 est.)

1 (2015 est.)

1 (2014 est.)

1 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 1

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 78,439

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 23.4 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 144

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 366,217

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 109.25 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 177

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: the telecom sector across the Caribbean continues to be a growth area, contributing to the country's overall GDP; totally automatic system; highly developed; operators focus investment on mobile networks; the activation of (mobile number portability) MNP in April 2017, allowing mobile subscribers to port their numbers between competing MNO (mobile network operators) has contributed to the competition and liberalization of the market (2020)

domestic: 23 per 100 fixed-line, 109 per 100 mobile-cellular (2019)

international: country code - 1-242; landing points for the ARCOS-1, BICS, Bahamas 2-US, and BDSN fiber-optic submarine cables that provide links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth stations - 2; the Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network links all of the major islands; (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

The Bahamas has 4 major TV providers that provide service to all major islands in the archipelago; 1 TV station is operated by government-owned, commercially run Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas (BCB) and competes freely with 4 privately owned TV stations; multi-channel cable TV subscription service is widely available; there are 32 licensed broadcast (radio) service providers, 31 are privately owned FM radio stations operating on New Providence, Grand Bahama Island, Abaco Island, and on smaller islands in the country; the BCB operates a multi-channel radio broadcasting network that has national coverage; the sector is regulated by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (2019)

Internet users

total: 282,739

percent of population: 85% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 167

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 87,067

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 26 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 125

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 5 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 35

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 1,197,116 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 160,000 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 24 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 2 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 13 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 37 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 16 (2013)

under 914 m: 17 (2013)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Roadways

total: 2,700 km (2011)

paved: 1,620 km (2011)

unpaved: 1,080 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 166

Merchant marine

total: 1,381

by type: bulk carrier 345, container ship 53, general cargo 70, oil tanker 240, other 673 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 19

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Freeport, Nassau, South Riding Point

cruise port(s): Nassau

container port(s) (TEUs): Freeport (1,116,272)(2011)

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Royal Bahamas Defense Force: includes land, air, maritime elements (2021)

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) has approximately 1,500 total personnel (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

most of the RBDF's major equipment inventory is supplied by the Netherlands (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary male and female service; no conscription (2012)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

disagrees with the US on the alignment of the northern axis of a potential maritime boundary

Illicit drugs

transshipment point for cocaine and marijuana bound for US and Europe; offshore financial center