The Bahamas is one of the most geographically complicated nations of the Atlantic. A coral-based archipelago, it is composed of more than 700 islands, 2,000 cays (pronounced "keys," from the Spanish word for small islands), and hundreds of rocky outcroppings that have damaged the hulls of countless ships since colonial days.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas came into being in 1973 after centuries of colonial rule. After Great Britain granted The Bahamas internal self-rule in 1964, the fledgling nation adopted its own constitution but chose not to sever its ties with its motherland. It has remained in the Commonwealth, with the British monarch as its head of state. In the British tradition, The Bahamas has a two-house Parliament, a ministerial cabinet headed by a prime minister, and an independent judiciary. The queen appoints a Bahamian governor-general to represent the Crown.
As The Bahamas moves deeper into the millennium, the government and various investors continue to pump money into the tourism infrastructure, especially on Paradise Island, across from Nassau, as well as Cable Beach adjoining Nassau. Cruise-ship tourism continues to increase, and a more upscale crowd is coming back after abandoning The Bahamas for many years in favor of other Caribbean islands such as St. Barts and Anguilla.
When Hubert Ingraham became prime minister in 1992, he launched the country down the long road toward regaining its market share of tourism, which under Prime Minister Lynden Pindling had seen a rapid decline. Exit polls revealed some first-time visitors vowing never to return to The Bahamas under the administration of the notorious Pindling, whose government had taken over a number of hotels and failed to maintain them properly.
When Ingraham took over as prime minister, however, he wisely recognized that the government wasn't supposed to be in the hospitality business and turned many properties back over to the professionals. After a painful slump, tourism in the post-Pindling era is booming again in The Bahamas, and more than 1.6 million visitors from all over the world now flock here annually. In the capital of Nassau, it's easy to see where the government's money is being spent: on widened roads, repaved sidewalks, underground phone cables, massive landscaping, sweeping esplanades, a cleanup campaign, and additional police officers walking the beat to cut down on crime.
Perry Gladstone Christie, prime minister from 2002-07, continued to carry out those same policies to better Nassau. Ingraham was reelected prime minister in May 2007.