16 December 2009

The Bahamas

The Islands of the Bahamas is a 100,000-sq-mile archipelago that extends over 500 miles of the clearest water in the world. This territory consists of 700 islands, including inhabited cays and large rocks, with total estimated land area of 5,382 sq miles. The Bahamas has a population of around 300,000. Recent archaeological digs indicate people lived in the Islands of Bahamas as early as 300 to 400 AD. These people probable came from Cuba and relied on the ocean for their food. In the 10th century, Lucayan Indians -- subgroup of the Arawaks -- settled in the Islands of the Bahamas. The Lucayans had left the Lesser Antilles to avoid their enemies, the Carib Indians. They were politically, socially and religiously advanced. When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 on San Salvador (some historians think he landed on Cat Island), there were about 40,000 Lucayans living in the Island of the Bahamas. However, slavery, disease, and other hardships ensured that the entire tribe was extinct within 25 years of Columbus' arrival. In 1648, a group of dissident English Puritans (known as the Eleutheran Adventures) arrived on the Islands in their quest for religious freedom. In the late 1600s to the early 1700s the Islands of the Bahamas made an ideal home base for pirates and privateers. The Islands of the Bahamas went into an economic slump that lasted until the 1940s and World War II, when it served as an air and sea way-station in the Atlantic. Construction of the base brought jobs to many people. In the 1961, the Islands of the Bahamas' good fortune rebound by capitalizing on its close proximity to the United States. In 1964, Great Britain granted Bahamas limited self-government. In 1969, the colony of the Bahamas became a Commonwealth. It then legally became a nation on July 10th, 1973, which is celebrated today as Bahamaian Independence Day. The Constitution of the Bahamas is based on the Westminster Model; Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and judicial Branch. The key Act on local government in the Bahamas is the Local Government Act 1996. To date, there have been no amendments to the Act but it is curerntly under review. The Local Government Act, 1996 created 23 districts in the Family Islands, and in 1999, the Minister for Family Island Affairs, under authority of the Local Government Act, 1996, created eight new districts (total of 32). According to the Local Government Act, there are two types of local councils in the Bahamas, namely Second Schedule District councils, which are subdivided into Town Areas, and Third Schedule District councils, which are not subdivided. There are 13 second-schedule district councils and 18 third-schedule district councils. The two differ in the way in which the councillors are elected, the functions for which they are responsible, and in that second-schedule districts have sub-structures (town areas) governed by town committees. Local government policy is formulated an administered through the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government within the Local Government Act of 1996. The minister may create new local government areas form time to time based on demography. There have been no cases of ministerial intervention in council business, although the minister has these powers. Tale of the tape Total population (2003): 314,000 Female population (2003): 159,000 Male population (2003): 155,000 Sex ratio (males per 100 females) (2003): 97 Unemployment rate (15+) (1998): 7.7% GDP total (2002): USD 4,818 millions GDP per capita (2002): USD 15,344 Value added in agriculture (of GDP) (1984): 2.3% Value added in services (of GDP) (1984): 83.9% Public expenditure in education (of GNP) (1985-1987): 4% Public expenditure in health (of GNP) (1998): 2.5%

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