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Bahamas

The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is an independent English-speaking nation in
the West Indies. An archipelago of 700 islands and cays (or keys), the
Bahamas is located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida in the United
States, north of Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean, and west of the British
dependency of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

History                                           National motto:
                                          Forward Upward Onward Together
Christopher Columbus' first landfall   Official language  English
in the New World in 1492 was on the    Capital            Nassau
island of San Salvador, possibly
located in the Bahamas. He encountered Queen              Elizabeth II
friendly Arawak (also known as         Governor general   Ivy Dumont
Lucayan) Amerindians and exchanged     Prime minister     Perry Christie
gifts with them. The British settled
on the islands in the 17th century,    Area               Ranked 155th
and made it a colony in 1783. Since    - Total           13,940 km²
attaining independence from the United - % water         28%
Kingdom in 1973, the Bahamas has       Population         Ranked 168th
prospered through tourism,             - Total (2002)    300,529
international banking and investment   - Density         22/km²
management.
                                       Independence       From the United
Politics                               - Date            Kingdom
                                                          July 10, 1973
                                       Currency           Bahamian dollar
                                       Time zone          UTC -5
Queen Elizabeth II, is the head of
state and the Queen of the Bahamas,    National anthem    March On,
which has remained a member of the                        Bahamaland
Commonwealth of Nations. She is        Internet TLD       .BS
represented in the Bahamas by a        Calling Code       1
governor general, appointed by the
monarch herself. Head of government is the prime minister, usually the
leader of the winning party of the elections for the parliament. The
Bahamian parliament consists of two chambers, the Senate (with 16 members)
and the House of Assembly (40). Elections are held every 5 years.

Districts

The Bahamas is divided into 21 districts:

   * Acklins and Crooked Islands     * Kemps Bay
   * Bimini                          * Long Island
   * Cat Island                      * Marsh Harbour
   * Exuma                           * Mayaguana
   * Freeport                        * New Providence
   * Fresh Creek                     * Nichollstown and Berry Islands
   * Governor's Harbour              * Ragged Island
   * Green Turtle Cay                * Rock Sound
   * Harbour Island                  * Sandy Point
   * High Rock                       * San Salvador and Rum Cay
   * Inagua

Geography

The largest island of the Bahamas is Andros, in the west. The island of New
Providence, east of Andros, is the site of the capital city Nassau and home
to about two-thirds of the total population. Other important islands are
Grand Bahama in the north and Inagua in the south.

Most of the islands - coral formations - are relatively flat, with some low
rounded hills, the highest of which is Mount Alvernia, on Cat Island, at 63
m. The local climate is tropical, moderated by the warm waters of the Gulf
Stream, with occasional hurricanes or tropical storms.

Economy

The Bahamas is a stable, developing nation with an economy heavily dependent
on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism alone accounts for more than 60% of
GDP and directly or indirectly employs almost half of the archipelago's
labour force. Steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction
of new hotels, resorts, and residences have led to solid GDP growth in
recent years.

Manufacturing and agriculture together 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, which depends on growth in the United
States, the source of the majority of tourist visitors.

Demographics

Most of the Bahamian population is black (85%); about 12% is white. The
official language is English, spoken by virtually all inhabitants.
Christianity is the main religion on the islands, with Baptists forming the
largest denomination (about one third), followed by the Anglican and Roman
Catholic Churches.
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