Bahamians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Bahamian economy is based mostly on tourism and offshore banking. The commercial-agriculture and industrial sectors are comparatively small. From 1981 to 1990, tourist arrivals increased an average 8.5 percent per year, owing to an almost threefold increase in the number of cruise-ship visitors. In 1990, 3,628,372 tourists visited the islands; half of them arrived by sea and 1,561,600 stayed twenty-four hours or more. U.S. citizens comprise 85 percent of the tourist population. Expenditures by tourists totaled $369.1 million in 1981 and $1.26 billion in 1990. (The Bahamian dollar is kept equivalent to the U.S. dollar.) The government is promoting agricultural development to fill the gaps left by exploitive foreign companies that have pulled out of the Bahamas. Subsistence farming has been carried on in the out islands since the first settlements. Two important crops are Indian maize, used for grits, and pigeon peas, which are added to imported rice to make the national dish, peas and rice. Some men in the out islands fish for their families and sell extra fish to neighbors.

Industrial Arts. Industry is scarcely developed. Two major exports are the spiny lobster and crude salt. Beer and rum are produced for local consumption and for export.

Trade. Nearly everything that Bahamians need is imported, from automobiles to food. Indeed, over half of the government's revenue is derived from general import taxes. Total revenues exceed $600 million.

Division of Labor. The government is the number-one provider of employment. Hotels and resorts, as a group, are a major employer, and banks are primarily operated by Bahamians. In the out islands, men and women perform many of the same jobs. Most men are farmers and fishermen; their wives, housekeepers and farmers. To earn the cash needed to purchase groceries, clothes, and household furnishings, men and women must perform wage labor. Since there are few paying jobs in the out islands, most Bahamians go off to seek jobs in Nassau and Freeport, often leaving their children in the care of grandparents.

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