Bahamas

Bahamas

Geographical Location of the Bahamas

The Bahamas are an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean. The archipelago consists of fifteen large and about 700 smaller coral islands and stretches nearly 80 miles from Haiti in the southeast to Florida in the northwest. The islands are made of porous limestone, which means they do not form rivers, streams or lakes. The four largest islands - Andros, Great Abaco, Great Inagua and Grand Bahama - occupy more than two-thirds of the land area. The Bahamas has a subtropical climate with mild winters and hot and humid summers. From June to September is the rainy season.

The archipelago is very vulnerable to climate change. The coral reefs around the islands are located in very shallow waters and are therefore particularly vulnerable to changes in temperature. In recent years, global increases in sea temperatures have led to the destruction of large parts of the country's coral reefs. Access to fresh water is limited, and the country's low terrain also makes the islands vulnerable to tropical storms, tidal surges and erosion. In August 2019, an extremely powerful hurricane hit the northern islands. The hurricane caused massive destruction and many deaths and is considered the worst natural disaster in the country's documented history. Climate change also creates an increased risk of extreme weather events.

Brief History of the Bahamas

The first inhabitants of the Bahamas arrived on the islands between the 5th and 8th centuries. They were Tainos who emigrated from other islands in the Caribbean. The local population was engaged in agriculture and fishing and called themselves Lukayans.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in America in 1492, he first landed on the Bahamas. However, the Spaniards were not interested in the islands because they had no precious stones. Instead, they forcibly transferred and exploited the indigenous population as slaves in other parts of the Spanish Empire. As early as 1520, most of the local population died out as a result of slavery and the introduction of new, European diseases. This left the Bahamas virtually deserted when English Puritans settled on the islands in the mid-17th century.

The Puritan settlement ruled the islands and made their living as pirates until 1718, when Great Britain took control of the territory. This led to the relocation of colonists and their slaves to the islands. In 1834, slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire, and so many American slaves fled to the Bahamas in hopes of freedom.

From the time the islands were colonized by the British until the 1940s, the population was controlled by a small white elite. Following the major protests of 1942, the role of people of African descent in society increased, and eleven years later the country's first political party was formed. The new party united the population of African descent and gained even greater political influence. In 1973, the Bahamas became independent from Great Britain.

Society and Politics of the Bahamas

The Bahamas is a parliamentary democracy. The country is part of the Commonwealth of Nations and has retained the British monarch as its official head of state. The British monarch is represented in the country through the Governor General. Executive power belongs to the government, which is headed by the prime minister. The party that receives the most votes in the general elections for the lower house is appointed prime minister. The Lower House is part of the National Assembly, which, together with the Upper House, forms the legislative branch.

The Bahamas is a stable democracy where the people are granted political rights, but discrimination and violence exacerbate social problems. Since the 1960s, many Haitian and Cuban migrant workers have come to the Bahamas. Immigration has led to social tensions, especially between Haitians and Bahamians.

Since the early 2000s, crime in the Bahamas has risen sharply, with many murders per capita. The country has long been a haven for money laundering and drug trafficking. The US Coast Guard is currently working closely with the Bahamas to stop smuggling. Violence against women is a widespread problem and is not considered illegal within the family. In a 2016 referendum, a new law against gender discrimination was rejected by an overwhelming majority.

Economy and Trade of the Bahamas

The Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Caribbean. The 1950s saw the creation of a tourism industry that today accounts for about half of the country's gross domestic product. More than half of all Bahamians work in the tourism industry. The country's financial sector is the second most important industry and accounts for about 15% of the country's GDP. The country is considered a tax haven even though new and stricter financial laws have been introduced. The economy of the Bahamas is closely linked to the American economy and is therefore vulnerable to fluctuations in the American economy.

Agriculture is poorly developed in the country, and only one percent of the land area is occupied by arable land. Due to the underdevelopment of agriculture and the lack of natural resources on the islands, the Bahamas has a large trade deficit. The country's social security system, such as health insurance and parental leave, is well developed and partly funded by the government. The standard of living and economy in the capital Nassau and the northern islands are somewhat better than the less developed islands to the south.

Flag of Bahamas
Coat of Arms of Bahamas

Basic Information About the Bahamas

  • Full name - Commonwealth of the Bahamas
  • Capital - Nassau
  • Language - English
  • Population - 393,244
  • Form of government - constitutional democracy
  • Area - 13,880 km2
  • Currency - Bahamian dollar
  • National Day - July 10