The Bahamas

views updated



Commonwealth of the Bahamas


FLAG: Three horizontal stripes of blue, gold, and blue, with a black triangle at the hoist.

ANTHEM: March on Bahamaland.

MONETARY UNIT: The Bahamas dollar (b$) of 100 cents has been in use since May 1966. As of June 1972, the Bahamas dollar ceased to be part of the sterling area and was set on a par with the US dollar. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 15, 25, and 50 cents, and 1, 2, and 5 dollars, and notes of 50 cents and 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollars. b$1.00000 (or us$1=b$1; as of 2004).

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Imperial weights and measures are in use.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Labor Day, first Friday in June; Independence Day, 10 July; Emancipation Day, first Monday in August; Discovery Day, 12 October; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 7 am = noon GMT.


The Commonwealth of the Bahamas occupies a 13,940 sq km (5,382 sq mi) archipelago which extends 950 km (590 mi) se-nw and 298 km (185 mi) nesw between southeast Florida and northern Hispaniola. Comparatively, the area occupied by the Bahamas is slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut. There are nearly 700 islands, of which about 30 are inhabited. New Providence, 207 sq km (80 sq mi), although not the largest, is by far the most populous and most densely populated island. The total coastline is 3,542 km (2,201 mi).

The Bahamas occupy a strategic location adjacent to the United States and Cuba.

The Bahamas' capital city, Nassau, is located on New Providence Island in the center of the island group.


The Bahamas were formed as surface outcroppings of two oceanic banks, the Grand Bahama Bank and the Little Bahama Bank. The islands are for the most part low and flat, rising to a peak elevation of about 63 m (206 ft), which is Mt. Alvernia on Cat Island. The terrain is broken by lakes and mangrove swamps, and the shorelines are marked by coral reefs.


The climate is pleasantly subtropical, with an average winter temperature of 23°c (73°f) and an average summer temperature of 27°c (81°f). Rainfall averages 127 cm (50 in) and there are occasional hurricanes.


Because of a favorable combination of soil and climate conditions, the islands abound in such tropical flora as bougainvillea, jasmine, oleander, orchid, and yellow elder. Native trees include the black olive, casuarina, cascarilla, cork tree, manchineel, pimento, and seven species of palm. There are 218 species and subspecies of birds, including flamingos, hummingbirds, and other small birds and waterfowl.


Among the government's priorities in environmental protection are monitoring industrial operations, providing potable water and regular garbage collection throughout the country, maintenance and beautification of public parks and beaches, and the removal of abandoned vehicles. Other significant environmental issues are the impact of tourism on the environment, coral reef decay, waste disposal, and water pollution. The principal environmental agency is the Department of Environmental Health Services. A rookery on Great Inagua affords protection to some 30,000 flamingos as well as to the roseate spoonbill. Land clearing for agricultural purposes is a significant environmental problem because it threatens the habitats of the nation's wildlife. Inagua National Park is a Ramsar international wetland site.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the number of threatened species included 5 types of mammals, 10 species of birds, 6 types of reptiles, 15 species of fish, and 5 species of plants. Endangered species included Kirtland's warbler, Bachman's warbler, the green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, Allen Cays rock iguana, and Watling Island ground iguana. The Caribbean monk seal and American crocodile are extinct.


The population of Bahamas in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 319,000, which placed it at number 167 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 5% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 30% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 95 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 20052010 was expected to be 1.2%; while the government is satisfied with this rate, it is concerned about high adolescent fertility. The projected population for the year 2025 was 398,000. The population density was 23 per sq km (60 per sq mi).

Only 30 to 40 of the islands are inhabited, and some two-thirds of the population reside on the island of New Providence, the site of Nassau, the capital and largest city with a population of 222,000 in 2005. The UN estimated that 89% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.17%. The population of Freeport on Grand Bahama Island grew from a few hundred in 1960 to an estimated 24,423 in the 1990s.

The first census was conducted in 1838, and in 1980 a law was passed requiring one to be conducted every ten years.


Emigration to the United Kingdom, considerable in the past, has fallen off since the mid-1960s. Some Bahamians migrate to the United States in search of employment. There is also inter-island migration, chiefly to New Providence and Grand Bahama islands.

Located between the United States and other Caribbean islands, the country's position has made it a transit point for migrants, including asylum seekers, trying to reach the United States. An estimated 100 Cuban nationals seek asylum in the Bahamas each month. The estimated net migration rate of the Bahamas was -2.18 migrants per 1,000 population in 2005. As of 2000 there were 30,000 migrants living in the Bahamas, including 100 refugees. There has also been an increasing number of asylum seekers from Europe, Asia, and Africa.

In 2004, the government spent us$521, 000 repatriating 3,034 illegal immigrants, including 2,500 Haitians. An estimated us$678,000 was spent on repatriation in 2003. Besides Haitians, there are increasing numbers of other nationalitiessuch as Cubans, Jamaicans, and Chineseillegally landing in the Bahamas.


About 85% of the population are descendants of slaves brought to the Western Hemisphere from Africa. About 12% of the total is white, largely of British origin, and 3% are Asian and Hispanic.


English is the official language of the Bahamas. Haitian immigrants speak French or a Creole patois.


As of 2000, at least 90% of the population claimed religious affiliation, and most accounts indicated that these were generally active participants. The population was overwhelmingly Christian, with Baptists comprising about 35%. About 15% of the population were Anglicans and about 24% belonged to other Protestants groups such as Pentecostals (8%), the Church of God (5%), the Methodists (4%), the Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists, and members of the Salvation Army. About 13.5% of the population were Roman Catholics. There is also a strong Greek Orthodox community. Smaller groups include Jews, Baha'is, Muslims, Hindus, and Rastafarians.

The constitution provides for the freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. Religion, with a focus on Christianity, is considered an academic subject in government schools. Although students may freely choose not to participate in religious instruction or observance outside of their own faith, the topic is included in mandatory standardized tests.


The larger islands have modern road networks. In 2002 there were about 2,693 km (1,673 mi) of highways, of which 1,546 km (961 mi) were paved. There were 83,500 passenger cars and 27,000 commercial vehicles in 2003. About 60% of all vehicles are on New Providence. There are no railways.

The Bahamas established a shipping register in 1976. In 2005, this archipelago nation had a merchant fleet of 1,119 ships of 1,000 GRT or over. Nassau is a major port of call for cruise ships, which visit Freeport as well. Airports in 2004 totaled an estimated 63. Of that number in 2005, a total of 30 had paved runways and there was also a single heliport. There are international airports at Nassau and Freeport, with frequent connections to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In 2001, a total of 1,625,700 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights. Bahamas Air, a state-owned enterprise, is the national airline.


Christopher Columbus is believed to have made his first landfall on the island now called San Salvador (formerly Watlings Island) on 12 October 1492, but the Spanish made no permanent settlement there. Spanish traders captured the native Lucayan Indians and sold them as slaves. The Eleutherian Adventurers, a group of religious refugees, established the first permanent European settlement in 1647. They and subsequent settlers imported blacks as slaves during the 17th century. The islands were also used as bases for pirates, including the notorious Blackbeard.

The British established a crown colony to govern the islands in 1717. The first royal governor, Captain Woodes Rogers, himself an ex-pirate, drove away the privateers, leaving the slave trade as the main economic enterprise on the islands.

After the end of slavery in 1838, the Bahamas served only as a source of sponges and occasionally as a strategic location. During the US Civil War, Confederate blockade runners operated from the islands. After World War I, prohibition rum-runners used the islands as a base. During World War II, the United States used the islands for naval bases.

Like other former British colonies, the Bahamas achieved independence in stages. After self-government was established in 1964, full independence was granted on 10 July 1973. The country's first prime minister was Lynden O. Pindling, leader of the Progressive Liberal Party. Pindling ruled for nearly 20 years, during which the Bahamas benefited from tourism and foreign investment. By the early 1980s, the islands had also become a major center for the drug trade, with 90% of all the cocaine entering the United States reportedly passing through the Bahamas. Diplomatic relations were established with Cuba in 1974. A decade later, as increased Cuban immigration to the islands strained the Bahamas' resources, Cuba refused to sign a letter of repatriation.

In August 1992, the Bahamas had its first transfer of political power, when Hubert Ingraham became prime minister. Ingraham was reelected in March 1997 for another four-year term. The principal focus of his administration was economic development and job creation. Under Ingraham's watch, a number of government enterprises were privatized. In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd did extensive damage in the Abacos and Eleuthra, causing a significant dip in tourism revenues. Tourism operations in other parts of the Bahamas were able to resume normal operations days after the Category-4 storm. Also during Ingraham's administration, a stock exchange, Bahamas International Securities Exchange, officially opened (15 December 1999); trading in local companies was initiated in May 2000 and in mutual funds in April 2001.

In the May 2002 election, the PLP came back to power and its leader Perry Christie became the new prime minister. Christie promised to bring about more economic development to the tourism-dependent economy. He also vowed to further develop the country's fast-growing financial industry. Christie actively broadened the Bahamian political sphere by establishing diplomatic relations with Singapore (December 2004), Pakistan (February 2005), Sri Lanka (July 2005), and the Czech Republic (July 2005), as well as, opening the door for Sino-Bahamas bilateral ties with a visit to China. On 4 February 2005, the Bahamas signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) banning any nuclear weapon test explosion in any environment. The total number of signatories was then 175 worldwide, with 28 in the Latin America and the Caribbean Region.

In September 2004, Hurricane Frances swept through the Bahamas, leaving widespread damage in its wake. Just three weeks later, Hurricane Jeanne flattened the islands. Jeanne uprooted trees, blew out windows, and sent seawater flooding through neighborhoods on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. Receding floodwaters left boats tossed on roads and homes battered.

On 3 May 2005 Christie suffered a stroke. Although rest was indicated, within weeks he returned to a reduced schedule of official duties. General elections were scheduled for no later than 2 May 2007, but in September 2005 Christie hinted that the next elections were "not too far down the 'political highway'."


Under the constitution of 10 July 1973, the Bahamas adheres to a republican form of government, formally headed by the British sovereign, who is represented by a governor-general. In 2001, at age 71, Dame Ivy Dumont became the Bahama's first woman governor-general. Executive authority is vested in a prime minister and a cabinet. The bicameral legislature consists of a 16-member Senate, appointed by the governor-general (9 on the advice of the prime minister, 4 on the advice of the opposition leader, and 3 at the governor's discretion), and an elected 40-member House of Assembly. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party in the House. The normal span of the elected legislature is five years, but, as in the United Kingdom, elections can be called at any time. Suffrage is universal at age 18.


The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), a leader in the pro-independence movement, emerged as the Bahamas' majority party in the early 1970s. The Free Progressive Liberal Party, a splinter group formed in 1970, merged with another opposition group, the United Bahamian Party, to form the Free National Movement (FNM). After years of loyal opposition, the FNM took power in 1992, winning 32 seats to 17 for the PLP. In the 1997 elections, the FNM increased its majority to 34 seats and another seat was added in a by-election later the same year. Meanwhile PLP representation in the House dwindled to six seats and Lynden Pindling resigned as party leader. In 2002, under the leadership of Perry Christie, the PLP won 50.8% of the vote and 29 seats in the 40-member legislature, enough to command majority control.


There are 21 administrative districts, consisting of various islands and groups of islands. A commissioner responsible to the national minister of local government heads each.


British common law forms the basis of the Bahamas' judicial system. The highest court is the Court of Appeal, consisting of three judges. The Supreme Court is composed of a chief justice, two senior justices, and six justices. The governor-general makes High Court appointments. Ultimate appeals go to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. In 2003 the Bahamas was not among the eight Caribbean nations that ratified a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice to handle some cases formerly heard by the Privy Council. Lower courts include three magistrates' courts on New Providence and one on Freeport. For other islands, commissioners decide minor criminal and civil cases.

The judiciary is independent. The executive branch with the advice of the Judicial and Legal Services Commission appoints judges.

Long pretrial detentions are not uncommon in cases involving narcotics. In 1993, new magistrate's courts were established in order to work toward a reduction of backlogs requiring long pretrial detentions. A new Supreme Court was established in Freeport in addition to the Supreme Court in Nassau.

The lowest level courts are magistrate's courts, which handle crimes with a maximum sentence of five years. The Supreme Court handles most major cases as the trial court. Jury trial is only available for the Supreme Court cases.

Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney, but government appointed counsel is provided only in capital cases. There is also a right to be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours, a right to bail, a presumption of innocence, and a right to appeal.

The constitution prohibits torture and other cruel punishment. However, in 1991, corporal punishment was reinstated after having been abolished for seven years. Capital punishment is still used despite protests from the United Kingdom, which has requested its former colonies to eliminate the death penalty.


The Royal Bahamian Defence Force in 2005 consisted of 860 active personnel including 70 women. They operate 7 patrol/coastal vessels 7 logistics/support ships, and 4 transport aircraft. The defense budget totaled $32 million in 2005.


The Bahamas joined the UN on 18 September 1973 and belongs to ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies. The Bahamas is an observer in the WTO (2001). It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the ACP Group, CARICOM, G-77, LAES, and OAS. It is also a part of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and the Inter-American Development Bank. The Bahamas is a member the Nonaligned Movement and of the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin American and the Caribbean (OPANAL). The country is a signatory of the 1947 Río Treaty. In environmental cooperation, the Bahamas are part of the Basel Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Tourism and financial services drive the Bahamas economy. Tourism, the mainstay of the economy, directly or indirectly involves about half of the population and accounts for about 40% of GDP, with an additional 10% coming from tourism-related construction. More than five million tourists visited the Bahamas in 2004, 87% from the United States.

The reliance on tourism, particularly from the United States, makes the Bahamas vulnerable not only to worldwide economic shocks such as the decline in travel that followed the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States but also to cyclical slowdowns that occur in the US economy.

The absence of direct taxation makes the Bahamas a financial haven for banking and trust companies, mutual funds, investment firms, and offshore sales and insurance companies. The financial services sector made up about 15% of GDP in 2004, constituting the second most important activity in the Bahamas economy. According to the US State Department, the Bahamas government had 262 banks and trust companies as of 2005. However, legislative measures passed since 2000 to better regulate money laundering have led to the closure of some offshore banks and international business companies since 2002. The government is considering new legislation that would keep the financial sector competitive while continuing to comply with international standards.

Besides tourism, tourism-related construction, and financial services, other contributors to GDP include government spending (20%), manufacturing (8%), and agriculture and fisheries (3%). Local companies produce a small array of exports, including salt, aragonite, cement, timber, pharmaceuticals, petroleum products, and rum. Agricultural and fisheries productswhich include fruits, vegetables, lobster and fishare produced mainly for domestic consumption.

After a decade of slow growth, the economy began to pick up in the mid-1990s due to increased private investment in tourism, shipping, construction and the expansion of financial services. Renewed economic buoyancy followed privatization of major hotels in 1994 and completion of major renovations by the new owners since, as well as increased marketing and an improved foreign investment regime. Real GDP growth, at 33.5% in 1997 and 1998, increased to 6% and 5% in 1999 and 2000. The global economic slowdown in 2001 and particularly, in tourism, after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, reduced growth to 3.5% in 2001. However, since 2002, the government has attempted to stabilize its tourism services base through an encouragement of large-scale private sector investments. Still, GDP growth has not kept up with its 1999 pace, and was reported at 3% in 2004 and 2005. The US State Department predicted that plans to develop tourism on the Family Islands, expand ship-repair facilities, and encourage film production would help stabilize the Bahamas economy for the long-term.

Steady economic growth has brought a steady decline in unemployment: from 11.5% in 1996 to an estimated 6.9% in 2001. Unemployment has climbed in recent years, however, and was 10.2% in 2004. Inflation remained low, averaging 1.27% from 1996 to 2001. Inflation was 1.2% as of September 2004.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 The Bahamas' gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $5.7 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $18,800. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3%. The average inflation rate in 2004 was 1.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3% of GDP, industry 7%, and services 90%.

Approximately 32% of household consumption was spent on food, 5% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 8% on education.


The total number of workers was put at 156,000 in 1999 (the latest year for which data was available). Of that total in that same year, an estimated 50% were employed in tourism-related activities, with another 40% in other service industries. The remaining 10% of workers were equally distributed between industrial and agricultural employment. In 2004, the unemployment rate in the Bahamas was estimated at 10.2%.

Labor unions operate with constitutional protection, and approximately 25% of the workforce belongs to a union. In the important hotel industry, 80% of the workers are union members. The three leading union federations are the Trade Union Congress, the National Workers Council of Trade Unions and Associations, and the National Congress of Trade Unions. Members of the police force, defense force, fire brigade, and prison guards are not permitted to unionize. All labor unions have the right to affiliate with international trade organizations.

In 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), the government set a minimum wage for all hourly and temporary workers in the public sector at us$4.45 per hour, and in 2002 (the latest year for which data was available), a minimum wage for private sector employees was set at us$4.00 per hour. The law limits the regular workweek to 40 hours, requires time-and-a-half overtime pay over that limit, and a standard 24-hour rest period The Ministry of Labor promulgates minimum health and safety standards. It enforces these standards with routine inspections, and the standards are generally respected by employers. Children under the age of 14 are not permitted to work in industry or during school hours. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted to work at night.


Agriculture is carried out on small plots throughout most of the islands. Only about 1% of the land area is cultivated. The nature of the terrain limits the scope of farming, which is mainly a household industry. The main crops are vegetables: onions, okra, and tomatoes, the last two raised mainly for export. Inadequate production has necessitated the import of some 80% of the islands' food supply. Among steps the government has taken to expand and improve agriculture is the reserving of 182,000 hectares (450,000 acres) exclusively for farming, 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) of which were converted to fruit farming. Export-oriented orange, grapefruit, and cucumber production occurs on Abaco. Agricultural products in 2004 included 55,500 tons of sugar cane, 13,000 tons of grapefruit, 8,700 tons of lemons and limes, 5,000 tons of tomatoes, and 880 tons of sweet potatoes.


Except for poultry and egg production, the livestock industry is relatively insignificant. In 2004, the livestock population included 750 head of cattle, 6,500 sheep, 14,500 goats, 15,000 hogs, and 3,000,000 poultry. About 700 tons of cow's milk, 1,050 tons of goat's milk, and 900 tons of eggs were produced in 2004. Poultry production in 2004 (8,050 tons) accounted for almost all domestic meat production. In December 1991, the government banned foreign chicken, in order to protect local poultry producers from cheaper imports, mainly from the United States.


The 2003 catch amounted to 12,736 tons, over 81% of which was spiny lobsters (crayfish). Crayfish and conch exports are commercially important. There is excellent sport fishing for wahoo, dolphin fish, and tuna in Bahamian waters. In 2003, fisheries exports totaled $93.8 million. Since the Bahamas imports 80% of its food, the government is interested in expanding the role of domestic commercial fishing. Aquaculture and mariculture development are planned to grow into a $150 million annual business by the government, with the anticipation of 15,000 new jobs created. In 2003, fishery exports accounted for 25% of agricultural exports.


Caribbean pine and cascarilla bark are the major forestry products, but there is no commercial forestry industry. About 32% of the total land area consists of forests and woodlands. Roundwood production in 2003 totaled 17,000 cu m (600,000 cu ft). That year, the Bahamas imported $21.3 million in wood and forest products.


The mineral sector played a minor role in the economy of the Bahamas. Salt and aragonite stone, a component in glass manufacture, were the two most commercially important mineral products. Estimated 2003 production had figures of 900,000 metric tons for salt and 1.2 million metric tons for aragonite, figures which have remained unchanged since 1999. The major salt producer on the Islands was Morton Bahamas Salt Company, the only major industry and the largest employer on the island of Inagua, where the second-largest solar saline operation in North America was located. Limestone sand was produced by Freeport Aggregate Ltd. for the local construction industry.


Most electricity is produced at thermal plants owned by the Bahamas Electricity Corp. Production totaled 1.716 billion kWh in 2002 with capacity for that year at 401,000 kW. Fossil fuel accounts for all power production. Electricity consumption in 2002 was 1.596 billion kWh. In 1991, a 28,000 kW upgrade was initiated at the Clifton Power Plant on the west end of New Providence Island. Gas turbines were added to the Blue Hill Power Station and were operational in late 2002 and early 2003.


A few Bahamas-owned industrial companies dominate this sector: the BORCO oil facility, based in Freeport; the Commonwealth Brewery in Nassau, which produces Heineken, Guinness, and Kalik beers; and Bacardi Corp., which distills rum in Nassau for shipment to US and European markets. In addition, a formerly US-owned pharmaceuticals company now operates in Freeport as PFC Bahamas and is owned by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche. In addition to these companies, sun-dried sea salt and aragonite (a form of limestone) are produced. Cruise ship repairs are carried out at a wet dock facility in Freeport.

Large-scale oil refining began in 1967 with the installation of a large refinery on Grand Bahama with a daily capacity of 500,000 barrels, but by 2000 no oil was being refined. The BORCO facility now services primarily as a resource for regional oil transshipments.

A duty-free zone and nearly industrial park in Freeport have been established to encourage foreign industrial investment. Through these efforts, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa opened a container port. The Bahamian Parliament approved legislation in 1993 that extended most Freeport tax and duty exemptions through 2054.


Agricultural research facilities include the Bahamas Agricultural Research Center, Central Agricultural Station, and the Food Technology Complex.


Lack of a strong production infrastructure means that most of what residents of the Bahamas consume comes from outside the country, mainly from the United States. Shopping hours are from 9 am to 5 pm, except Sunday. Banks are open from 9:30 am to 3 pm, MondayThursday, and from 9:30 am to 5 pm on Friday.


The United States is the Bahamas' major trading partner and takes 77.5% of its exports. Other trading partners include EU (17.6%), Canada (1.6%) and Mexico (0.4%). Trade agreements that the Bahamas participates in the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), the Caribbean-Canada Agreement (CAIBCAN), and the Lomé Convention.

Exports include pharmaceuticals, cement, rum, crawfish, and aragonite.

Foods, manufactured goods, hotel, restaurant, and medical supplies; and computers and electronics are all imported. In 2004, 83.3% of the imports came from the United States, with small amounts coming from Venezuela (5.5%), the Netherlands Antilles (2.6%), the EU (2.1%) and Japan (1.2%). Nassau is the principal distribution and import center.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2005 the GDP of the Bahamas was $5.685 billion. Exports totaled $1.507 billion in 2004, while imports totaled $5.804 billion, resulting in a significant trade deficit. Although the Bahamas remains an import-oriented economy, income from tourism and financial services is a vital offsetting factor in the country's balance-of-payments position. The CIA described the Bahamas economy as "stable" and "developing."

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) statement on the Bahamas in 2005 reported an increase in the country's net international reserves, which strengthened the Bahamas' position on balance of payments. Net international reserves rose through early 2005, which also helped increase the size of excess bank reserves.


Banking started in the Bahamas in 1837, when the first commercial bank opened in New Providence. The Central Bank of the Bahamas, established in 1973, is the central issuing and regulatory

United States291.51,605.5-1,314.0
United Kingdom12.09.92.1
Italy-San Marino-Holy See5.44.21.2
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account-429.8
   Balance on goods-1,204.7
   Balance on services900.4
   Balance on income-163.1
   Current transfers37.6
Capital Account-37.4
Financial Account259.7
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in The Bahamas145.0
   Portfolio investment assets
   Portfolio investment liabilities
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets46,576.8
   Other investment liabilities-46,462.1
Net Errors and Omissions317.5
Reserves and Related Items-110.0
() data not available or not significant.

authority. Funds for local development are made available through the Bahamas Development Bank.

Low taxation and lenient regulations have encouraged the establishment of about 420 financial institutions in the country in 2000, half of which operate offshore banks, dealing exclusively with nonresidents. The banking sector accounts for more than 20% of GDP. Many of the loans of domestic banks are denominated in foreign currency. Major Bahamian banking institutions include Bank of the Bahamas Limited, Barclay's Bank, British-American Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Citibank, Commonwealth Bank, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Anti-money laundering acts have provided for the security of the banking sector.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $767.0 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $3.6 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 5.75%.

The Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) opened in 2000. It opened in two phases; domestic stocks (from about 20 companies listing an estimated $30 billion in shares) followed by international offerings. In April 2001 the BISX launched a mutual fund listing facility. In 2003 there were 17 public companies listed on the exchange.


The establishment of a large number of insurance firms in the Bahamas has been encouraged by a 1970 law that permits companies to conduct part or all of their business out of the country while still benefiting from local tax advantages. The government is encouraging the formation of "captive" insurance companies created to insure or reinsure the risks of offshore companies. In 1997, there were approximately 30 captive insurers in the Bahamas. Supervisory jurisdiction is provided by the Ministry of Finance, Registrar of Insurance Companies. In 2003, the value of direct premiums written totaled $405 million, with life accounting for the largest portion at $223 million. Royal & SunAlliance was the country's top nonlife insurer with gross nonlife written premiums totaling $84.8 million.


The Bahamian government budget receives revenues primarily from import duties (65%), but Hemispheric Free Trade scheduled for 2005 was expected to greatly reduce revenues. The government has looked for other sources of funds, including a restructuring of the banking system. Tourism remains about 60% of GDP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in FY03/04 the Bahamas's central government took in revenues of approximately us$1 billion and had expenditures of us$1 billion. Total external debt was us$308.5 million.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, budgetary central government revenues were b$901.1 million and expenditures were b$1,067.7 million. The value of revenues in US dollars was us$736 million and expenditures us$872 million, based on a principal exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = b$1.2250 as reported by the IMF.

Revenue and Grants901.1100.0%
   Tax revenue823.991.4%
   Social contributions
   Other revenue77.28.6%
   General public services295.927.7%
   Public order and safety129.312.1%
   Economic affairs166.115.6%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities12.31.2%
   Recreational, culture, and religion
   Social protection60.45.7%
() data not available or not significant.

Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 27.7%; defense, 2.9%; public order and safety, 12.1%; economic affairs, 15.6%; housing and community amenities, 1.2%; health, 16.2%; education, 18.7%; and social protection, 5.7%.


The absence of direct taxation has enabled the Bahamas to attract a substantial number of financial enterprises in search of tax-shelter advantages. The country has no income taxes, capital gains taxes, or profit taxes, and residents are free from succession, inheritance, gift, or estate taxes. The only indirect taxation is a real property tax, ranging from 12% based on appraised value, owner's nationality, location and development status.


Import duties make up approximately 60% of government revenues. As of 2005, import levies range from 1260% and average 35%, but are subject to change quite frequently. Most duties are applied ad valorem. Preferential rates apply to imports from Commonwealth countries. Exemptions are available for many basic commodities. Luxury goods are taxed at separate tariff rates, for example: cigarettes are taxed at 210% with a stamp tax of 7%, pool tables at 100%, bottled water at 70%, automobiles from 4575%, and air conditioners at 35%.


The absence of corporate and personal income taxes, as well as any form of sales, estate or inheritance taxes, acts as a direct inducement to foreign capital. In addition, specific investment incentives are included through the following: the Industries Encouragement Act, providing total exception from import duties and taxes for development of approved industries; the Hawksbill Act, which provides for tax-free development of the Freeport area; the newer Bahamas Free Trade Zone Act; the Export Manufacturing Industries Encouragement Act; the Spirits and Beer Manufacturing Act, which allows duty-free importation of construction materials and raw material; the Hotels Encouragement Act, which, as amended, exempts large new hotels from all taxes for up to 20 years with reductions for the next 10 years; the Agricultural Manufacturers Act, which allows machinery and raw materials for an agricultural factory to be imported duty-free; and recent amendments to the Tariffs Act, which allow duty exemptions for construction on some of the outer "Family Islands." Investment proposals are processed by the Bahamas Investment Authority, established under the Foreign Investment Law in 1993 to be a one-stop shop.

In 2000, in response to multilateral organizations' concerns, the government enacted stronger measures to regulate the financial sector and prevent money laundering in the country's banking sector. The measures included establishment of a Financial Intelligence Unit and enforcement of "know-your-customer" rules. By 2004, all banks without a meaningful presence in the country were to be shut down. These rules had the effect of reducing the number of offshore banks registered in the Bahamas (50) and prompted half of the international business companies to close shop. Though painful, the IMF has praised the effort as increasing the efficiency of the financial services sector and reducing the number of nonperforming loans.

Net international reserves have climbed from $484 million in 2003 to $668 million in 2004, and were project to end 2005 at $642 million.

The government actively seeks foreign investment in every sector of the economy, but reserves many businesses exclusively for Bahamians, including wholesale and retail operations, commission agencies in import/export trade; real estate; domestic newspaper and magazine publication; domestic advertising; local night clubs and restaurants; security services; construction; beauty parlors and barber shops; shallow water scalefish, crustacean, mollusk, and sponge fishing operations; auto and appliance service; and public transportation.

The Bahamas has the world's third-largest registry of ships, administered by the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) headquartered in London. The registry has been famous for cruise ships, but with the development of the Freeport deep-water container facility and transshipment, larger vessels can be accommodated.

Foreign investment remains mainly in the tourism-related sector and the banking and related services sector. Since the enactment of a revised foreign landholding act in 1993, investment in the second-home sector has been growing. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) for 2004 at $206 million, compared with $147 million in 2003. FDI stocks accounted for $2.20 billion in 2004, or about 39.9% of the Bahamas GDP. Despite the declines in FDI in 2001 and 2002 that resulted from a global economic slowdown and worldwide declines in foreign investment and tourism after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US World Trade Center, FDI continued to remain a significant source of revenue for the Bahamas.

The Bahamas' only stock exchange is the Bahamas International Stock Exchange (BISX) started as a private venture with a $5 million investment in 2000. It has not developed into an efficient channel for foreign portfolio investment. By 2003, the BISX had lost an estimated $2 to $3 million and was being sustained by government subsidies of $50,000 a month. In March 2003, 14 companies were listed with a market capitalization value of $1.4 billion. In 2001, US investors held $1.16 billion in equity in Bahamian companies.


The promotion of tourism and financial activity by foreign firms continued as a basic tenet of the Bahamas government. Since the late 1960s, increased emphasis has been focused on development of local industry, with the liberal tax structure remaining the key incentive. In 1976, the government began a series of measures to foster greater participation by Bahamians in the economy. The new ruling included increased work-permit fees for foreigners and sharp rises in property-transfer taxes and business licensing for non-Bahamians. Since late 1979, government permission has been required for the sale of land to non-Bahamians. The Bahamas Development Bank helps provide financing for non-Bahamian entrepreneurs. In 1996, the government implemented an income tax on foreign workers. The government is attempting to diversify the economy and attract new industry, as well as to conserve and develop the country's 324,000 hectares (800,000 acres) of forest.

Economic challenges facing the Bahamas included meeting continued employment demands, encouraging privatization and keeping a rising level of government debt in check. Bahamas's residents do not pay income or sales taxes. Most government revenue comes from tariffs and import fees. This situation may change when the Free Trade Area of the Americas incorporates the Bahamas. Because trade barriers will be reduced, the country is likely to require some form of taxation.

Other future hopes for economic growth lie in continued tourism investment. Two major hotel projects were in the works in late 2004: the Atlantis Resort and Casino on Paradise Island and a $1.2 billion hotel resort development project in the Cable Beach area of Nassau. In addition, the Baha Mar Company was to purchase three major hotels and a development site, including the last assets of the state-owned Hotel Corporation. As part of the deal, the government was to expand the Nassau International Airport. In 2004 and 2005, the government also began to expand its outreach to foreign investors, making trips to Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Canada to promote the islands. Special attention was paid to China, with the Bahamas government making multiple trips there to encourage tourism and investment.


Old age, disability, and survivorship benefits are available to all employees, self-employed individuals, and those who are voluntarily insured. Contributions are shared between employers and employees, but there are no governmental contributions. There is a maternity grant for each live birth, and a 13-week maternity benefit of 60% of the average weekly earnings. Funeral benefits are provided in a lump sum.

Bahamian women are well represented in business, the professions, and government. However, the constitution and the law have continued to discriminate against women. For example, inheritance laws mandate that in the absence of a will, a deceased person's estate be passed on to the oldest son or nearest male relative. Violence against women increased in 2004. The government was taking measures to combat the widespread problem of domestic abuse. Economic difficulties prevent the government from improving standards for child welfare. Child labor laws are in effect.

Human rights are generally respected by the government, although there are occasional reports of arbitrary arrest and detention. Illegal immigrants, mainly Haitians and Cubans, are detained until arrangements are made to either leave the country or remain legally.


The government operates the 436-bed Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau and two other hospitals, the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center and the 82-bed Rand Memorial Hospital. In addition, 57 clinics and 54 satellite clinics are maintained throughout the islands, with emergency air links to Nassau. Health expenditures totaled us$132,492,992, or 14.8% of the national budget.

In 2004, there were 105 physicians, 447 nurses, and 7 dentists per 100,000 people. In 2005, the infant mortality rate was 25.21 per 1,000 live births. In 2000, low birth weight babies accounted for an estimated 10.4% of all births. In 1999, the birth rate was 20 per 1,000 people, and the general mortality rate was 5.4 per 1,000. Average life expectancy in 2005 was 65.54 years. Approximately 28% of all deaths were attributable to diseases of the circulatory system, 20% to communicable diseases, 14% to cancer, and the remainder to other causes.

Approximately 88% of one-year-old children were immunized against measles and 91% were immunized against diphtheria. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 3.00 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 5,600 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Frequent severe hurricanes in the past decade have caused damage and destruction to thousands of homes. Overcrowding is a problem in some areas and adequate low-cost housing is in short supply. An estimated 70% of housing units were detached houses, nearly 15% were apartments, and more than 10% were single attached dwellings. Over 50% of all homes were stone, concrete and/or brick, and over 30% were wood. The Bahamas Housing Authority was established by the government in 1983, with a mandate to develop housing for low-income people.

To encourage construction of new homes in remote areas the government has waived customs duties on building materials to less developed islands. As of 2001, the government had also launched a "new birth" program to renovate dwellings in traditional communities and to create new housing in urban centers, particularly for low or middle-class residents. Churches, businesses, and other organizations have been called on to find ways to provide shelter for low-income families, women, and children. The government has also sponsored housing projects for senior citizens and the disabled.


Primary education begins at age five and lasts for six years. Secondary education lasts for five years and is divided into a three-year junior high school course and a two-year senior high school course. Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 16.

In 2001, about 30% of all children between ages three and five attended some form of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 86% of age-eligible students; 85% for boys and 88% for girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 76%; 74% for boys and 77% for girls. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 17:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 15:1.

Postsecondary training is provided by the government primarily through the College of the Bahamas. The College of Bahamas (founded in 1974) provides a two-year/three-year program that leads to an associate degree. It also offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in education. Other schools of continuing education offering academic and vocational courses include the Bahamas Hotel Training College, the Catholic Continuing Education College of St. Benedicts, and the Industrial Training College. In addition, the Bahamas has been affiliated with the University of the West Indies since 1960.

Education is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Culture and is free in all government-maintained schools. English is the official language. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 3.7% of GDP. An IDB-funded program for the Improvement of Primary and Secondary Education is under way. The adult literacy rate in 2003 was estimated at about 95.6%; 94.7% for men and 96.5% for women.


The Nassau Public Library is the largest of four public libraries on New Providence, with some 80,000 volumes. The Ranfurly Out Island Library, a private institution, distributes free book packages to school libraries throughout the country. The Haynes Library is a public library on Eleuthera. The library of the College of the Bahamas in Nassau maintains a collection of 75,000 volumes. There is a Bahamas Library Association and a Bahamas Association of Law Libraries.

Most museums in the Bahamas are archaeological and historical. In Hope Town is the Wyannie Malone Historical Museum, which features the history of the town and its early American loyalist settlers. In Nassau there is the Bahamia Museum (1973), featuring ethnology and folklore; the Bahamas Historical Society Museum (1959), a public affairs museum with a Marine Salvage collection; the Nassau Public Library and Museum; the Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation (1992), a historical, ethnological, and folklore museum; and Angelo Roker's Art Centre and Museum.


All telephone, telegraph, and teletype service is provided by the Bahamas Telecommunications Corp. In 2003, 131,700 mainline telephones were in service, with automatic equipment in use on the major islands. A submarine cable connects New Providence with Florida, and direct dialing to the United States has been available since 1971. In 2002, there were about 121,800 mobile phones in use.

In 2004, there was one government-run radio station (ZNS Bahamas) and five privately owned radio broadcasters. The country has two television stations, one operated by the state-owned Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas, and a privately owned station. In 1997 there were 215,000 radios and 67,000 television sets in use nationwide. In 2003, there were about 84,000 Internet users.

Three daily newspapers are published in the country. The Nassau Daily Tribune had a circulation of 12,000 in 2002 while The Nassau Guardian had a circulation of 14,100. The daily Freeport News has a circulation of 4,000. All three papers are privately owned. There are also several weekly papers.

The government is said to respect the constitution's provisions for freedom of speech and press.


Commercial associations include the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce (with locations on Nassau and Grand Bahama) and the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC). Employers' groups include the Bahamas Employers' Confederation and the Bahamas Union of Teachers.

International amateur sports activities are coordinated by the Bahamas Olympic Association and the Bahamas Amateur Athletic Association (BAAA).

There is a Bahamas Historical Society promoting education and preservation of native culture. The Medical Association of the Bahamas promotes high standards of medical care and serves as an alliance for specialized medical professional associations.

There are about 15 prominent youth organizations throughout the country, including some which are affiliated with political parties. Other groups include the Girl Guides and the Scout Association of the Bahamas, Progressive Young Liberals, Torchbearers Youth Association, and the YMCA and YWCA. Sports associations represent a number of particular pastimes and include the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (track and field), the Bahamas Baseball Federation, Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association, and the Bahamas Olympic Association.

There are branches of the Red Cross, the Red Cross Youth Society, and Amnesty International. Other service groups include Kiwanis International, Rotary, and Lions Clubs.


Tourism in the Bahamas makes up almost 40% of the economy. Visitors are attracted to the excellent climate, beaches, flora, fauna, and recreational and resort facilities. Water sports (including excellent deep-sea fishing) are the favorite pastimes. Gambling is legal for non-Bahamians. Major hotels are being renovated and built to accommodate for the growing tourism industry in the Bahamas.

Passports are not required for tourists from the United States and Canada for stays of less than three weeks. Passports but not visas are required of most visitors from Western Europe, Commonwealth countries, and Latin America. All visitors who enter the Bahamas must possess proof of funds to support the visit and either a return or onward ticket. In 2003, approximately 1,500,000 tourists visited the islands, spending a total of us$1.8 billion. There were 15,393 hotel rooms and 30,786 beds with a 59% occupancy rate. The average length of stay was 4.5 nights.

According to 2004 US Department of State estimates, the cost of staying in the Bahamas varied between seasons and location. Averages were as low as us$25 per day for a stay on Andros Island to us$350 per day on Nassau (from November to June).


Lynden Oscar Pindling (19302000), a lawyer and leader of the PLP, was the Bahamas' first prime minister following independence in 1973 until he was succeeded by Hubert Ingraham (b.1947) in 1992. Actor Sidney Poitier (b.USA, 1924) was appointed Bahamian ambassador to Japan in 1997.


The Bahamas has no territories or colonies.


Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Craton, Michael. Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Jenkins, Olga Culmer. Bahamian Memories: Island Voices of the Twentieth Century. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

Johnson, Howard. The Bahamas: From Slavery to Servitude. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

Johnson, Whittington Bernard. Race Relations in the Bahamas, 17841834: The Nonviolent Transformation from a Slave to a Free Society. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Keegan, William F. The People Who Discovered Columbus: The Prehistory of the Bahamas. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992.

Lewis, James A. The Final Campaign of the American Revolution: Rise and Fall of the Spanish Bahamas. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1991.

The Bahamas

views updated


Commonwealth of the Bahamas

Major Cities:
Nassau, Freeport


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated September 1994. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


The Commonwealth of the BAHAMAS is a chain of islands, cays, and reefs that sweep in a broad arc from 50 miles off the Florida coast, southward to the northern limits of the Caribbean. Blue skies and sparkling waters have lured generations of winter visitors to this subtropical archipelago, which was British colonial territory as recently as 14 years ago. The islands now comprise a fully independent state within the community of the British Commonwealth, having achieved autonomy in July 1973.

Close historical, social, cultural, and economic ties with the United States have left their imprint here. American investments and tourism in this island nation continue to make the Bahamas substantially more important to the U.S. than its small size and population would indicate. However, it retains its own distinctive character, and the society and institutions which lie behind its facade defy easy classification. Bahamian culture is a blend of the islands' African, English, and American origins, combined with the influence of the sun, the sea, and the tourists.



Nassau, capital of the Bahamas and its major port and city, is nearly 300 years old. Time and the elementshurricanes, decay, fires, and termiteshave destroyed many of the old buildings. The downtown area has a distinctive architecture accented by columns, verandas, jalousies, and pastel colors. More Victorian than anything else, Nassau's narrow walks, streets, and prolific flowering bougainvillea and hibiscus have helped preserve its charm. Nassau's population in 2000 was estimated at 195,000.

Nassau is located on the island of New Providence21 miles long and 7 miles wideone of the smallest and most central of the Bahamas chain. Nassau and its suburbs, which range east and west along and behind Bay Street, occupy mostly the northern half of the island. Miami is 210 miles to the northwest and New York is 1,080 miles almost due north.


Proprietary governors of Carolina and other North American colonies administered the Bahamas as trading markets with little pretense of civil administration. By 1700, the islands were well established as pirate camps for such immortals as Blackbeard and Calico Jack. In 1718, the First Governor, Captain Woodes Rodgers (an ex-privateer), gave the Bahamian pirates the choice of either confronting the small army he brought with him, or accepting a Royal Amnesty. Most took the latter, but eventually drifted off to other islands to resume their profession.

During the American Revolution, the Bahamas served as a supply point. Afterwards, the islands saw their biggest change, as some 8,000 British loyalists and their slaves fled the U.S. These settlers brought the plantation system to some of the smaller islands, but poor soil, over-cultivation, and the boll weevil exhausted the chances of large-scale cotton crops in less than 10 years.

With the agricultural exhaustion of lands, poverty became more serious. However, the American Civil War brought prosperity as Nassau became the center for Confederate blockade running and the Royal Victoria Hotel (a once grand, now largely demolished) old building in the center of downtown Nassau became the haunt for both spies and gunrunners. In 1866, depression returned and for the next 50 years a succession of attempts to create wealth from conch (pronounced "conk") shells, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, sponges, and shipbuilding failed. The Florida land boom from the early 1900s and again in 1920 drew many Bahamian immigrants to the U.S.

With the Prohibition Act of 1920, the Bahamas reemerged as a major base for blockade running, this time for bootleggers. World War II and the establishment of U.S. bases and facilities in the Bahamas brought back the prosperity of the 1920s.


The selection and quality of food found in Bahamian food stores in Nassau is comparable to those of an average American supermarket with some exceptions. Certain popular brands may not be available, and specialty items such as delicatessen and ethnic food selections are usually meager. Produce is not comparable to an American supermarket, but a broad selection does exist and fresh vegetables can be found through careful shopping. Prepared food items often cost twice as much as the same products in southern Florida.


Local tastes and standards are similar to those of southern Florida. Summer clothing is worn year round, but with somewhat heavier material during the Bahamian "winter." Fabrics comfortable for the season range from lightweight washables to heavier fabrics and knits. Winter can be quite cool and clothes tend to be more formal. Wardrobes should include sweaters and possibly lightweight woolens. Heavy clothing is not necessary unless winter trips abroad are contemplated. Sportswear is available locally at reasonable prices.

Bahamian women often dress elegantly when attending church services and other special occasions.

Children's clothing is dictated by the time of year. All schools require uniforms which are available locally, so children probably need little more than play clothes. Children's clothing is available, but expensive. Parents may wish to purchase additional children's clothing before arrival.

All students wear uniforms for school and casual clothes at other times. Attractive casual clothes, including a sport jacket or suit for boys and appropriate dresses for girls are necessary, as young people are often included in social functions. Clothing for girls is readily available, but student sizes for boys are difficult to find.

Supplies and Services

Nassau drugstores, supermarkets, and speciality shops stock a variety of brand name toiletries, cosmetics, feminine personal supplies, home medicines, and common household needs. Prices are higher than in the U.S., and stores do not always maintain adequate supplies.

There are at least five custom tailor shops and six dressmakers in Nassau, and 23 custom drapery shops. The quality of the tailoring and dressmaking shops is spotty; only a few are recommended. Custom-made drapes and reupholstery in Nassau are expensive and believed to be on a par with the more expensive shops in large U.S. cities.

Dry-cleaning and laundry outlets are conveniently located. The quality of dry-cleaning service is poor. Some individuals have experienced difficulty with delicate fabrics and specialty cleaning, such as removing difficult stains from linens or silks.

Most skilled appliance and automotive service personnel are employed by major appliance stores and automobile dealers. Preference is given to customers who have purchased the appliance or automobile from the dealer. Warranties on items imported from the U.S. are not valid. Several independent automotive and appliance repair shops exist. Service varies greatly. Some independent repair shops take on projects for which they lack proper tools, equipment, training, or knowledge and can create more service/repair-related problems than they solve.

All the major hotels have qualified beauticians and barbers who meet U.S. standards of sanitation, styling, and beauty care services.

Shoe repair is limited but heels and soles can be repaired while you wait. Only two watch repair shops are located in Nassau but the quality of service is good. Some small, independent jewelers also do limited watch repairs and produce high quality custom-made jewelry. U.S. companies, such as IBM, Xerox, and Wang, provide reliable service on electric typewriters and personal computers.

Religious Activities

Full freedom of religion exists in the Bahamas, which has no favored or official State religion. The Bahamas is a predominately Christian country, and over ninety churches on New Providence represent Protestant, Roman Catholic, and interdenominational religions. Most of these churches are members of the Bahamas Christian Council, a national association which coordinates church activities and represents church services. Church services are conducted in English, but one church conducts services in Creole for Haitian residents. New Providence has no Jewish synagogues or Islamic Mosques.


The Bahamian school system, including most private schools, offers curricula based on the British system. All the Catholic schools are based on the American system. However, parents should be prepared to supplement their children's education with studies of American history and literature, especially for students in grade 7 and above. Overall, the resource centers, libraries, and curricula are inadequate by comparison. On the other hand, most private schools in Nassau have smaller class sizes and less disciplinary problems than many public schools in the U.S. No American International School exists in Nassau. The school systems follow the British in terms of grade levels.

A major concern is that teachers in many schools are not required to fit their study programs into a planned, step by step overall program, resulting in some gaps in subject coverage. Elementary Schools in Nassau range from thoroughly inadequate (Bahamian public schools) to very good. The upper grades (9-ll), however, offer neither breadth nor depth in their study programs. Many college-bound high school students go to boarding schools in the U.S., Canada, or Britain. However, there are some good high schools in the Bahamas.

People with school-age children should complete and forward school applications to the CLO upon learning of their assignment to the Bahamas. Many schools have waiting lists.

A short description of the highest rated schools follows: Lyford Cay School, located on the extreme western end of New Providence, occupies a six-acre wooded site within the boundaries of Lyford Cay. The school is able to take advantage of a 24-hour private security system. The children have access to two superb beaches and a 20-meter swimming pool at the Lyford Cay Club.

The school receives children from all over the island and accommodates up to 175 children ages 3-11. The pupils come from many different backgrounds and nationalities.

The school curriculum is based on the British system and is geared to the resources of the Bahamian environment. The children are tested annually by the Bahamian government and the Educational Research Bureau. Tuition for the 1993-94 school year ranged from $3105 to $3500.

St. Andrew's School is interdenominational, and coeducational. The children come from families in the middle and upper income brackets. Approximately 75% are Bahamian and the teaching staff is mostly British, with 3-year teaching certificates. The campus is large, the buildings are in good condition, and the student-teacher ratio is approximately 20 to 1. The school offers many extracurricular activities and has excellent sports facilities, including an outdoor swimming pool.

Structured on the British system, the school offers programs for approximately 750 students as young as 3 in a preschool program, and ranging to the late teens for children in the l2th grade. Tuition for the 1993-94 school year ranged from $4,755 to $5,790 per year depending on grade level. Even though the school is structured on the British system of eleven grades, the twelfth year was added to help students compete with other l8 year olds in the U.S. system.

St. Augustine's College (high school, grades 7-12) St. Augustine's is Roman Catholic, and coeducational. The students are 90% Bahamian, from middle and upper socioeconomic bracket families. All the teaching staff is Bahamian, most with teaching certificates.

The buildings are well kept, on a large and beautiful campus. Religious education and regular church attendance are mandatory. The school has excellent sports facilities, including an outdoor swimming pool.

The curriculum is equivalent to British Comprehensive schools, incorporating elements of American junior and senior prep school along with computer science. In addition, the S.A.T. is taken in the final year for admission to American colleges and universities. The library is inadequate and most books date from l967 or before. The physical education program is good, and a few extracurricular programs are offered. Tuition for the 1993-94 school year was $2,040.

Tambearly School is an independent, recently established school with a curriculum for children age 4 (Reception) through eighth grade. It has a well planned study program using a combination of textbooks and workbooks (rare for Bahamian schools), combined with frequent field trips. Its goal is to prepare students for integration into schools abroad. All students utilize the computer and take French and Spanish.

Tambearly has a student enrollment of approximately 130, and is located at Sandyport, West Bay Street. The school accommodates up to l5 students per class, and has a staff of 12 full-time teachers and four part-time. Tuition for the 1993-94 school year was $4,050.

Special Educational Opportunities

The College of The Bahamas offers programs leading to the Bachelors Degree, the Associate Degree, Advanced Level G.C.E. (London), College Diplomas, and Certificates in Business Administration, Education, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Nursing and Health Sciences, Social Sciences, and Technology. The College's first Bachelor's Degree program, a B.B.A. in Banking and Finance, was introduced in September 1991. The College operates on a semester systemtwo semesters, and one summer session. Tuition fees are about $25 per credit hour per semester for Bahamians and $50 for non-Bahamians.

The Bahamas Hotel Training College and the University of the West Indies (degree program) offer courses in tourism and hotel management.

The University of Miami, Barry University, and Nova University, conduct a 2-year program in Nassau leading to an MBA. Courses are held on weekends and are designed for business executives and managers. American family members who have enrolled have found it challenging and worthwhile. Additional information on the University of Miami program is available by telephoning the University at (305) 284-2510, or contacting the CLO or USIS Education Advisor.

Several business schools offer courses in secretarial skills, business, word processing, and computer programming. The Industrial Training Center offers one-year courses in the technical/vocational curricula.


The emerald and turquoise waters of the Bahamas set the backdrop for sports in the country. Swimming, fishing, boating, sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and water skiing are excellent year round. Instruction is available for all sports, but may entail club memberships.

Golf and tennis are also popular. Nassau has four l8-hole golf courses, but green fees are expensive. Paradise Island's seaside course offers a view as well as a challenge. Divi Beach Golf Course is the newest course. Like Paradise Island, it can be crowded and expensive. Electric carts are required at all courses. The course at Lyford Cay has a limited membership and is very expensive. Many hotels have tennis courts. Several private tennis clubs are available, as well as athletic clubs, gyms, and spas. The world-class "Gold's Gym" opened in October 1993.

New Providence Island has in-season pigeon and duck shooting. The Family Islands also have seasonal pigeon, duck, and wild boar shooting. Horseback riding is offered by stables in the Coral Harbour area as well as on Paradise Island and Nassau East.

Spectator sports include boxing, baseball, cricket, softball, soccer, rugby, basketball, American football, and volleyball. Some events are free; others charge a small admission fee.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Literally all of New Providence can be explored in less than a week's time. The Family Islands, including Eleuthera, the Exumas, Bimini, and Abaco, are most popular with Americans. The terrain is flat as in New Providence. The islands can be reached by air, charter boat, or mail-boat. Tours can be taken by taxi, bicycle, and surrey, or by glass-bottomed boat trips, sailing cruises or even an air-conditioned submarine which dives 80 feet below the surface.


The major importance of the tourist industry to the Bahamian economy has determined to a large extent the type of entertainment facilities here, which mirror those of a popular American resort city.

Luxury hotels on Paradise Island and on the north shore of New Providence offer a wide variety of specialty restaurants, cocktail lounges, cabarets, and discos. Two large casinos exist in Nassau, one on Paradise Island at the Brittania Towers Hotel and the other at the Crystal Palace Casino. Both the Crystal Palace Hotel and the Brittania Towers Hotel produce a Las Vegas-style extravaganza or floor show. Several other night clubs located in hotels and separate from hotels offer Bahamian and American-style shows and dancing.

Apart from the luxury-class restaurants, many good restaurants featuring Bahamian, American, Italian, and Greek food are patronized by nontourists.

Many choirs exist in Nassau and the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts produces numerous well-known musicals and plays throughout the year. In addition, it also produces folk ballets and dramas written by Bahamians. Several of the larger hotels offer aerobic and other dance classes.

Two movie theaters operate in Nassau. They features popular American films.

Social Activities

An American Men's Club and an American Women's Club, the latter affiliated with the Federation of Women's Clubs of America, coordinate philanthropic and community activities among resident Americans. Outstanding among these are the annual Fourth of July picnic and the annual Christmas season wine and cheese tasting and dinner dance

An Hispanic Women's Club, including many U.S. members, is also active in the community.

Some organized activities exist for children, ages 7 to 15 years, including Boy and Girl Scouts, and extracurricular school events. Two swimming clubs for children offer competitive swimming. A riding school exists for those interested in horses. Some children also participate in operetta society productions, gymnastics, tennis, and Little League baseball.

You may contribute your time and skills through churches, the American Women's Club, the Hispanic Women's Club, the Bahamas National Trust, the Yellowbirds (Princess Margaret Hospital volunteers), the Bahamas Humane Society, Animals Require Kindness, the Red Cross Society, Ranfurly Home, the Women's Crisis Center, and assorted clinics. The Historical Society and the National Trust offer lectures on the Bahamas.

Special Information

The primary hazard facing anyone living in or visiting Nassau comes from residential and street crime, primarily burglary, robbery, and larceny. Residents and visitors should exercise caution and common sense. Doors and windows should be kept locked at all times, and deserted beaches, back streets, and poorly lighted areas should be avoided.

As the Bahamas remains a transit area for drugs designated for the United States, narcotics are easily obtainable. Parents should take extra precaution to educate their children on the dangers of illegal drug use. Parents should also become involved in their children's outside activities and closely monitor the company they keep. Drug offenses are dealt with very seriously in the Bahamas.

Temporary duty visitors to The Bahamas and newcomers should exercise extreme care while driving. The accident rate in Nassau is high due to the driving habits of Bahamians, poor enforcement of speed limits, and adverse road conditions. Accident rates among visitors who rent motorbikes and motorscooters are particularly high.

Freeport, Grand Bahama Island

Freeport is a modern community located on the southwestern shore of Grand Bahama Island, 120 miles northwest of Nassau. In 2000, Freeport's population was approximately 41,000. The island is 530 square miles in area, and the highest point of elevation is 68 feet. Although cooler than Nassau and with a higher rainfall, effects of the climate are similar to those in Nassau.

Freeport boasts a 450-seat Regency Theater in which the Freeport Players Guild presents several plays throughout the year. In addition, the Grand Bahama Players also present plays by Bahamian playwrights. The Freeport Friends of the Arts are active in bringing music and dance performers to Freeport. In the past, the group has brought in the Billy Taylor Jazz trio, the Alvin Ailey Dance Repertoire Ensemble, the English Chamber Orchestra, Russian concert pianist Boris Block, and singer Harry Belafonte.

Tourism is an important factor on Grand Bahama Island, and more than 5,000 resort hotel rooms are available for tourists. Planned less than 30 years ago, Freeport is still hopeful of attracting more investors. Major industries in Freeport include an oil transshipment company, several pharmaceutical plants, a perfume factory, a liquor blending company, three shipping companies, and a cancer immunology research center.

Taxis are readily available. No public transportation system exists, but jitneys are sometimes available. Roads are excellent and better designed than in Nassau. Most major highways are divided expressways.


Telephone service in Freeport is reliable, but callers to the U.S. find that the circuits are often busy. Direct dialing to long distance numbers is possible. Listings for Freeport and Grand Bahama are contained in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Telephone Directory published by the BATELCO.

The Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas operates radio station ZNS-3 out of Freeport to service Grand Bahama, Abaco, and Bimini with local as well as national programming originating in Nassau. AM reception of Florida stations is fair to good depending on atmospheric conditions, but FM reception from Miami requires special antennae. A Miami-based company operates a CATV positive cable system which provides good reception to seven television stations from southern Florida. In addition, viewers can tune into Bahamian Channel l3, ZNS. Satellite dishes are popular, but expensive.

Three Bahamian newspapers, the Guardian, the Tribune, and the Freeport News, are available as are the Miami Herald and the New York Times.


Medical facilities in Freeport are adequate for routine medical care, but are more limited than those in Nassau. The government-owned Rand Memorial Hospital has 50 beds and includes departments of surgery, general medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, radiography, and an emergency room. The Antoni Clinic is privately owned, and in addition to the services provided at Rand Memorial, this clinic includes plastic surgery, dentistry, and orthodontics, as well as oral and maxillo-facial surgery. The Lucayan Medical Center is limited to family medicine, internal medicine, and obstetrics.

Community health conditions in Freeport are comparable to those in Nassau, but Freeport does not have a large Haitian expatriate population.


The same concerns that affect choice of education in Nassau hold true for Freeport. Numerous private schools, mostly church affiliated, offer programs for preschool age (3-5) children through high school. School years are divided into three terms. Brief descriptions of major schools follow.

Freeport Nursery School and Play GroupCalvary Academy This kindergarten offers three terms during the period September-June for children ages 3-5. Classes are from 9 am to 2:30 pm. In addition, the day care center operates from 8 am to 5:30 pm for children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years. Tuition varies from about $300 per term.

Sunland Lutheran School Sponsored by Our Savior Lutheran Church, this coeducational school accepts children ranging from nursery school through grade 10. Fees range from $508 per term for nursery school children, and are graduated for older children up to $650 per term. Enrollment is approximately 500, with 35 faculty members.

Mary, Star of the Sea School This Roman Catholic school offers coeducational training from nursery school through 8th grade, and is staffed by two Franciscan sisters and about 40 lay teachers. Enrollment is approximately 850, and at times applicants are put on a waiting list. Term fees range to about $440.

St. Paul's Methodist College This coeducational school accepts children ages 3-16 and is administered by the same Board of Trustees as Queens College in Nassau. Term fees range from $435 to $554. The faculty consists of 40 teachers and maximum enrollment is 800.

Freeport High School This coeducational high school (grades 7-12) is administered by the Anglican Diocese of the Bahamas. Normal term fees are $550. A special college preparatory program is also available for an additional fee. Enrollment is about 400, with 25 teachers.

Grand Bahama Catholic High School This coeducational high school schedules its instruction in two semesters and offers a 4-year program to prepare students to take the American College Board examinations based on the British System. Tuition is approximately $1680 per year. Enrollment is 340 and the faculty consists of 18 lay teachers.

Recreation and Social Life

Grand Bahama offers an unusual activity for underwater explorers that is unavailable in Nassau. Due to the unique "sponge-like" structure of the Grand Bahama land mass, many ocean holes or small underground lakes connect to the sea. These underground, water-filled caverns are popular with scuba divers who enjoy exploring. One of the larger underground caverns, the Lucayan Cavern, contains over 33,000 feet of exploration line. Due to abuse by some souvenir hunters, the Bahamas National Trust closed this cavern to the public for an indefinite period.


Geography and Climate

The Bahama Islands lie between 20 and 27 °N. latitude and 72 and 79 °W. longitude. Separated from the North American Continent by the Florida Channel and cooled in the summer by the northeast trade winds, the Bahamas enjoys a moderate climate. During the summer, temperatures rarely rise above 90°F, while the lowest winter temperatures vary between 40° and 50°F Rainfall ranges 40-60 inches a year.

The Bahamas extends over 100,000 square miles of sea, with slightly less than half lying in the Tropics. The Tropic of Cancer crosses the lower part of Long Island.

The Bahamas covers a distance of some 760 miles from northwest to southeast and include 29 inhabited islands, 661 cays, and about 2,387 exposed reefs. The total land area is approximately 5,380 square miles, about the size of Wales or two-thirds the size of Massachusetts. The largest island is Andros, with an area of