Bahamas country profile
- 23 March 2016
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
An archipelago of 700 islands and islets, the Bahamas attracts millions of tourists each year.
The visitors come to enjoy its mild climate, fine beaches and beautiful forests.
A former British colony and now a Commonwealth member, the country is a major centre for offshore finance and has one of the world's largest open-registry shipping fleets. The Bahamas enjoys a high per capita income.
The huge growth in the services sector of the economy has prompted people to leave fishing and farming villages for the commercial centres in New Providence Island, Grand Bahama and Great Abaco.
As with other Caribbean countries, The Bahamas faces the challenge of tackling drugs trafficking and illegal immigration.
It has taken steps to clean up its offshore banking system.
Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Area 13,939 sq km (5,382 sq miles)
Major language English
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 73 years (men), 79 years (women)
Currency Bahamian dollar
Prime minister: Perry Christie
The Progressive Liberal Party returned to power at elections in May 2012, and party leader Perry Christie became prime minister for the second time.
He defeated the Free National Movement of incumbent Hubert Ingraham, which had won parliamentary elections in 2007.
The PLP had dominated Bahamian politics up until 1992, when the FNM swept to victory on an anti-corruption programme.
The PLP returned to power in 2002, and the two parties have alternated in government ever since.
Mr Christie was prime minister between 2002 and 2007.
Critics fear that oil development could harm the ecology and tourism sector. Mr Christie supports exploration, but insists he will protect the vital tourism industry.
The government operates radio networks and the islands' only TV station. There is a handful of private radio stations. Multichannel cable TV is widely available.
Some key dates in the history of the Bahamas:
1492 - Christopher Columbus makes his first landing in the New World in the Bahamas.
1647 - English and Bermudan religious refugees, the Eleutheran Adventurers, establish the first European settlement on the Bahamas.
1717 - Bahamas become a British crown colony.
1834 - Emancipation of slaves.
1964 - Bahamas granted internal autonomy.
1973 - The Bahamas become independent.