The BahamasThe Bahamas are a chain of coral islands and reefs which make up a country in the West Indies.

Bahamas, or Commonwealth of the Bahamas, an independent nation in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Bahamas consists of about 700 islands and more than 2,000 rocks and cays (islets) forming an archipelago nearly 600 miles (970 km) long. Total land area is 5,380 square miles (13,935 km 2). The largest islands are Andros, Great Inagua, Abaco, and Grand Bahama. On New Providence Island is Nassau, the nation's capital.

The Bahamas has a warm, tropical climate with average temperatures around 70° to 75° F. (21° to 24° C.) in winter and 80° to 85° F. (27° to 29° C.) in summer. Average annual rainfall varies from 50 inches (1,270 mm) in the northern islands to 25 inches (635 mm) in the south. Hurricanes strike occasionally, causing severe damage.

About half of the people live in and around Nassau. Less than 30 islands are inhabited. Blacks make up about 85 per cent of the population.

Education is compulsory from the age of 5 to the age of 14, and is provided in public and private schools. English is the official language.

Economy

Tourists—attracted by the warm climate, beautiful beaches, water sports, and casinos—are a major source of income. Grand Bahama and New Providence islands draw the most visitors, although the other islands, called the Out Islands, are becoming increasingly popular. The country's liberal tax laws make it a tax haven, and international banking, centered in Nassau, contributes substantially to the economy. Other economic activities include construction, light manufacturing, dry-dock operations, and transshipping. Commercial agriculture and fishing are conducted on a small scale.

The Bahamas' basic currency unit is the Bahamian dollar.

There are paved roads on many of the islands. Nassau and Freeport (on Grand Bahama Island) are the chief seaports and have international airports.

Government

As a constitutional monarchy, Queen Elizabeth is the head of state. Legislature includes the House of Assembly and the Senate. The members of the House of Assembly serve five-year terms.