Nation at a Glance - Bahamas

History

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. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas has prospered through tourism, international banking, and investment management. Because of its location, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US and Europe, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.

Location: Chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba

Border Countries: 0 km

Total Area: 13,880 sq km Land: 10,010 sq km Water: 3,870 sq km

Climate: Tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream

Terrain: Long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills

Natural resources: Salt, aragonite, timber, arable land

Land use: Agricultural land: 1.4% arable land 0.8%; permanent crops 0.4%; permanent pasture 0.2% Forest: 51.4% Other: 47.2% (2011 est.)

Ethnic groups: Black 90.6%, White 4.7%, Black and white 2.1%, Other 1.9%, Unspecified 0.7% (2010 est.)

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%), Roman Catholic 12%, other Christian 13% (includes Jehovah's Witness 1.1%), Other 0.6%, None 1.9%, Unspecified 2.6% (2010 est.)

Population: 327,316

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

Economy: The Bahamas has the second highest per capital GDP in the English-speaking Caribbean with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and international banking. Tourism accounts for approximately 75-80% 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. On January 1, 2015, the Government introduced a 7.5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on most goods and services, a measure designed to strengthen the fiscal balance sheet. In August 2016, Moody’s downgraded the Bahamas’ bond and issue ratings to Baa3 from Baa2 with a stable outlook, maintaining that rating in its February 2017 review. In December 2016, S&P downgraded the country to BB+ (speculative grade) from BBB- (investment grade) with a stable outlook based on projections of slow economic growth and the pace of debt accumulation. The Bahamas is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that is not a member of the World Trade Organization.

Agriculture - products: Citrus, vegetables; poultry

Industries: Tourism, banking, oil bunkering, maritime industries, transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals

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