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The economy of the Bahamas

The Bahamas is not a backward Third World country, but an economically and politically stable developing country with a per capita income of more than USD 17,500. This is much higher than in most of the Caribbean’s neighboring countries. The literacy rate is 85% of the population.

Tourism is clearly the leading industry and engine of the Bahamian economy. Half of the gross national product is generated by tourism and employs almost 50% of the workforce. The banking and financial sector is the second main pillar in the Bahamas and is responsible for about 15% of the gross national product. The majority of banks are active in wealth management for the wealthy.

The third economic pillar is the construction industry, which has contributed significantly to the well-being of the economy in recent years. Agriculture, fishing and industry play a minor role, although the main export items are agricultural and fishery products, such as crabs and other seafood, fruits and vegetables, rum and crude salt.

There is an industrial zone in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island with chemical factories, ship repairs, limestone processing and petroleum-based industries.

There is also a rapidly evolving film and TV industry. In 2004, Gold Rock Creek Enterprise Film Studios was founded in Grand Bahama. It is based on a disused US naval base. The studios were one of the main locations for the filming of the Pirate of the Caribbean film triology.

The Political System in the Bahamas

Since independence from Britain in 1973, the Bahamas has been a stable democracy. The country is a member of the Commonwealth and still has the British Queen as its head of state. It is represented by the Governor General, who has only a representative function.

The Parliament consists of the “Senate” and the “House of Assembly”, whereby the “House of Assembly” is the actual legislative institution. It deliberates and passes laws and consists of deputies directly elected by the people. Each district on the main island New Providence and from the less populated “Out Islands” elect at least 38 deputies for five years.

The Senate has 16 members, nine of whom are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Four members are appointed by the opposition leader and three by the Prime Minister after consultation with the opposition leader.

A bill is introduced as a bill in the House of Assembly. It is discussed and debated three times and if it is passed, the bill goes to the Senate. The bill is debated and when passed, it is submitted to the Governor General for signature. The governor signs the bill and a new law is enacted.

The government consists of a cabinet of at least nine ministers including the Prime Minister and the Attorney General. The ministers are appointed by the House of Assembly and up to three ministers can be elected from among the senators. As a rule, the party elects the executive by a majority in the House of Assembly.

There are two major parties in the Bahamas: the FNM (Free National Movement) and the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party). The first prime minister was Sir Lynden Pindling of the PLP party, who was in office for almost 20 years.

His successor as Prime Minister was Hubert Ingraham of the FNM Party. In 2002, after 10 years in office, he was replaced by Perry Christie of the PLP Party. After five years, Hubert Ingraham of the FNM Party regained power.