The Bahamas

Geography of the Bahamas

The Bahamas is a strategically located coral archipelago of 700 islands stretching from 60 miles off the coast of South Florida at its north to Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the south. 

Only 30 of the islands are regularly inhabited with the 300,000 population concentrated in the 10 major islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Andros, Cat Island, Inagua, Long Island and Andros. Covering an area of some 13,940 square kilometers with large expanses of ocean waters, channels and shallows, transportation and communication pose a challenge to the management and coordination of development of sports and sporting activities


Geographical statistics:

Coordinates: 24.15 N, 76.00 W; Strategic location adjacent US and Cuba

Area: Total:13,940 sq km; Water 3,870 sq km; Land:10,070 sq km; Coastline: 3,542 km

Climate: 15 C to 27 C; Balmy, tropical marine moderated by warm Gulf Stream waters

Natural resources: Salt, aragonite, arable land

Natural hazards: Hurricanes and other tropical storms

Natural attractions: Sunny weather, pink sand beaches, turquoise waters


The People and Culture of the Bahamas

The 300,000 people of the Bahamas are predominantly of West African decent. Their ancestors were slaves brought to the islands to work the cotton plantations until 1834, when Britain abolished slavery in all its territories. Most white residents (about 12% of the population) are descendants of the first English settlers who immigrated to the Bahamas to gain religious freedom; and British Loyalists who fled the southern United States during the American Revolution and built enormous plantations in the Bahamas.

After the abolition of slavery, life changed drastically. The plantations were dissolved, and both blacks and whites turned to fishing and sponging from the bountiful sea. The lack of fertile cropland prompted the islanders to become a nation of seafarers, and Bahamians used these skills to great advantage during the days of shipwrecking (as the navigational route between Europe and the Americas), gun running (during the American Civil War), Prohibition (prominent in trans-shipment of liquor to southern US Ports), and presently its strategic position continues to provide a route for illegal drugs and contraband into the United States.


People Statistics

Population:  297,478 (2003 estimate)

Age structure: 0-14 years: 28.8% (male 42,799; female 42,730)
  15-64 years: 65.4% (male 95,718; female 98,875)
  65 years and over: 5.8% (male 7,092; female 10,263)

Median Age: Total: 27 years
  Male: 26.2
  Female: 27.7

Life expectancy at birth: Total Population: 65.71 years
  Male: 62.3 years
  Female: 69.18 years

Ethnic Groups: Black 85%
  White 12%
  Hispanic and Asian: 3%

Religions: Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 20%, Methodist 6%, Church  of God 6%, other Protestant 11%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%

Languages: English, Creole (among Haitian immigrants)

Literacy: Definition: age 15 and over who can read and write

 Total Population: 95.6%

 Male: 94.7%

 Female: 96.5%


The Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas

Almost 300 years of uninterrupted parliamentary government attests to the political stability of the Bahamas. The legal and political institutions of the country reflect its Anglo-Saxon heritage. It has a bicameral parliamentary government composed of a Senate and a House of Assembly, a Prime Minister, an Attorney General, and an  independent Judiciary, including a Supreme Court, and a Court of Appeals.

Although it is one of the world's oldest democracies, the Bahamas is a young nation which did not attain majority rule until 1967 and shed its 200 year old status as a Colony by gaining independence from Great Britain on July 10, 1973. The Bahamas remains a member of the British Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Games is one of its focus sporting events.


Government Statistics

Government Type:  Constitutional Parliamentary Democracy

Executive Branch: Chief of State: Queen Elizabeth II (since 6 February 1952),  represented in the Bahamas by Governor General Ivy Dumont (since 9 May 2002)

 Head of Government: Prime Minister Perry Christie (since 3 May 2002) Deputy Prime Minister: Cynthia Pratt (since 7 May 2002)

Cabinet: The Cabinet is appointed by the Governor General on the  recommendation of the Prime minister

Elections: There are no elections to the Executive Branch; the Monarchy  is hereditary; Governor General appointed by the Monarch; following  legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the  majority coalition is usually appointed Prime Minister by the Governor  General; the Prime Minister recommends the deputy Prime Minister.

Legislative Branch: Bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (16-member body  appointed by the Governor General upon the advice of the Prime Minister  and the leader of the Opposition for a five-year term), and the House of  Assembly (40 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)

Elections: Last held 1 May 2002 (Next to be held 2007)

Election Results: Percent of vote by party – PLP 50.8%, FNM 41.1%,  Independents 5.2%. Seats by party – PLP 29, FNM 7, Independents 4.

Judicial Branch:  Supreme Court; Court Of Appeal; Magistrates Courts

Political Parties and Leaders:  Free National Movement or FNM, leader Tommy Turnquest; Progressive Liberal Party or PLP, leader Perry Christie

Ministries and Ministers: National Security (Cynthia Pratt); Works and Utilities (Bradl             ey Roberts); Labour and Immigration (Vincent Peet); Foreign Affairs and  Public Service (Frederick Mitchell); Education (Alfred Sears); Trade and Industry (Leslie Miller); Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government (Alfred Gray); Youth, Sports and Culture (Neville Wisdom); Social  Service and Community Development (Melanie Griffin); Transport and Aviation (Glenys Hanna-Martin); Financial Services and Investments  (Allison Maynard-Gibson); Housing and National Insurance (Shane Gibson); Health (Dr. Marcus Bethel); Finance (James Smith).

International Organization Participation: ACP, C, Caricom, CDB, ECLAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, (signatory ), ICFTU, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, LAES, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW (signatory), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO(observer)


The Economy of the Bahamas  

The economy of the Bahamas depends heavily on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism accounts for more than 65% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over $3 billion (1B$=1US$) and is the major source of employment. Steady growth in tourism and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts and residences has led to solid GDP growth in recent years, but the slowdown in the US economy and the attacks of 11 September 2001 held back growth in 2002 while the war in Iraq continues to hamper a full recovery. Manufacturing and agriculture and fisheries together contribute about one tenth of GDP but show little growth, despite government incentives. Overall growth prospects rest heavily on the fortunes of the tourism, which depends on the economy of the US, the source of the majority of the visitors. The Bahamian dollar is on par with the US dollar.


Economic Statistics

GDP: Purchasing Power Parity - $5.2 billion (2002 estimate)

GDP per capita:  Purchasing Power Parity - $17,000

Labor force:  172,000

Labor force – by occupation: Tourism 60%, other services30%, industry 5%,  agriculture 5%

Unemployment Rate:  6.9%

Budget:  Revenues: $1.2 billion; Expenditure: $1,062 million (2002 estimate)

Industries: Tourism, banking, e-commerce, cement, oil refining and  transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipes   

Export Commodities: Fish and crawfish; rum, salt, chemicals; fruit and vegetables

Export Partners: US 28.2%, France 16.5%, Germany 14.1%, UK 12.9% (2000)

Import Commodities: machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, mineral fuels; food and live animals

Import Partners:  US 31.6%, South Korea 18.2%, Italy 17.4%, Japan 5.8% 

Budget

The World Economic Outlook published by the IMF projects real economic growth for the Bahamian economy of 2.9% in 2003 and 2.5% in 2004. The budgeted total expenditure for fiscal year 2003-2004 is $1,062 million of which only $9 million is earmarked for the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.


SPORTS IN THE BAHAMAS

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture

The national governance of sports matters in the Bahamas falls under the Sports Division of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, one of the fifteen government ministries listed under 4.3.6.  The mission of the Sports Division is embodied in Chapter 34 of The Sports Act of the Bahamas (1974) - 'An act to make better provision for development and encouragement of Sporting activities in the Bahamas'. This Act establishes the Bahamas Sports Commission with the objective of providing sporting facilities and recognizing and assisting sporting associations.

School sports programs fall mainly under the Ministry of Education. Because of the importance of the leisure aspects of sports in the Bahamas, the Ministry of Tourism promotes sports for Bahamians and visitors especially those interested in golf, fishing and sailing. Overall the government recognizes the need for more people playing at the grass roots level and more Bahamian athletes excelling on the international stage; and looks to sport to contribute to the delivery of its wider objectives such as health, education, crime reduction and social cohesion.

The Sports Division is headed by the Director of Sport who reports to the Minister of Sport through his Permanent Secretary.  The head office is in Nassau and there is another office in Freeport (The Bahamas' second largest town); and sports officers are stationed on all of the major islands. There is a Sports Council of prominent sports leaders who are appointed by the Ministry to advise on sporting matters. An executive of the BOA always sits on this Council.

Interaction between Government and the BOA is normally through the Minister of Sport or his Permanent Secretary. The effectiveness of this relationship depends greatly on the Minister and the President of the BOA, which varies with the political tides and the personalities involved. In general the cooperation between the BOA and government has been good; and full support is given to major national and international sporting events.