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 have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transhipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US and Europe, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.


Population: 316,182 (July 2012 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 (July 2012 est.)

Age structure: 0-14 years: 24.4% (male 38,834/female 37,715)

15-64 years: 69.2% (male 106,882/female 110,081)

65 years and over: 6.3% (male 7,578/female 12,222) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Commonwealth of The Bahamas

conventional short form: The Bahamas

Government type: constitutional parliamentary democracy
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

Telephones – main lines in use: 133,000 (2011)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 298,800 (2011)
Airports: 61 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 22

over 3,047 m: 2

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

1,524 to 2,437 m: 12

914 to 1,523 m: 5 (2012)

Military branches: Royal Bahamian Defence Force: Land Force, Navy, Air Wing (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age (est.); no conscription (2008)


The Bahamas is one of the wealthiest Caribbean countries with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism together with tourism-driven construction and manufacturing accounts for approximately 60% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs half of the archipelago’s labour force. Steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences had led to solid GDP growth in recent years, but tourist arrivals have been on the decline since 2006.


Financial services constitute the second-most important sector of the Bahamian economy and, when combined with business services, account for about 36% of GDP. However, since December 2000, when the government enacted new regulations on the financial sector, many international businesses have left The Bahamas.


Manufacturing and agriculture combined contribute approximately a tenth of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. Overall growth prospects in the short run rest heavily on the fortunes of the tourism sector. Tourism, in turn, depends on growth in the US, the source of more than 80% of the visitors.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: disagrees with the US on the alignment of a potential maritime boundary; continues to monitor and interdict drug dealers and Haitian refugees in Bahamian waters
Illicit drugs: transhipment point for cocaine and marijuana bound for US and Europe; offshore financial centre