An archipelago of 700 islands and isletsthe Bahamas attracts millions of tourists each year.
The visitors come to enjoy its mild climatefine beaches and beautiful forests.
A former British colony and now a Commonwealth memberthe 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 incomebut there are imbalances in the distribution of wealthmost of which is concentrated in the commercial and tourist centres.
Festival time in the capitalNassau
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 IslandGrand Bahama and Great Abaco.
This trend has compounded the islands' dependence on tourism and banking.
As with other Caribbean countriesThe Bahamas faces the challenge of tackling drugs trafficking and illegal immigration. It has taken steps to clean-up its offshore banking system.
The Bahamas is a destination for migrants from its strife-torn Caribbean neighbourHaiti. Tens of thousands of Haitians are thought to be living illegally in the country.
Bahamian culture is expressed most colourfully in "Junkanoo" street celebrationswhich feature rhythmic musicdance and elaborate costumes and masks.
- Full name: Commonwealth of the Bahamas
- Population: 342,000 (UN2009)
- Capital and largest city: Nassau
- Area: 13,939 sq km (5,382 sq miles)
- Major language: English
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 71 years (men)76 years (women) (UN)
- Monetary unit: 1 Bahamian dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Pharmaceuticalscementrumcrawfishrefined petroleum products
- GNI per capita: US$14,920 (World Bank2005)
- Internet domain: .bs
- International dialling code: +1242
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth IIrepresented by Governor-General Arthur D Hanna
Prime minister: Hubert Ingraham
Hubert Ingraham's opposition Free National Movement (FNM) won parliamentary elections in May 2007securing 23 seats in the 41-seat parliament.
Time-served leader Hubert Ingraham ousted the PLP in 2007
Mr Ingrahama lawyerserved two terms as prime minister between 1992 and 2002. The FNM had campaigned on issues of trustcriticising the ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) over a series of scandals.
Financial analysts predicted little change in economic policy under the FNM.
Mr Ingraham's predecessorPerry Christietook office in May 2002 after the PLP won 29 seats in parliament.
The PLP has dominated Bahamian politics through much of the post-independence erawinning every election from 1973 through to the 1992 poll when voters rejected the late Sir Lynden Pindling and a government accused of corruption and drug trafficking.
The government operates a radio network and the islands' only TV station. There is a handful of private radio stations. Multichannel cable TV is widely available.
The islands' privately-owned press carry a variety of viewsincluding criticism of the government.
- The Nassau Guardian - daily
- The Bahama Journal - daily
- The Tribune - daily
- Freeport News - daily
- The Punch - twice weekly
- ZNS Bahamas - operated by government-ownedcommercially-run Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas (BCB)
- ZNS Bahamas - run by BCBoperates Radio Bahamas (ZNS1)Inspiration 1240 (ZNS2)Northern Service (ZNS3)Power 104.5
- Love 97 FM - privatecommercial
100 Jamz - privatecommercial
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