The Bahamas is a 100,000 square mile archipelago of 700 islands and at its closest point The Bahamas is only 55 miles from the east coast of Florida. It achieved limited self-governance in 1964 and full independence from Great Britain in 1973. Most of the population is descended from African slaves many of whom were brought to The Bahamas by British loyalists who left the United States after the Revolutionary War. Most of the population resides on the island of New Providence, where Nassau is located, and in the City of Freeport on the island of Grand Bahama. Smaller communities are scattered over the other islands of The Bahamas, known as the “Family Islands”.
- The Bahamas offers potential investors a stable democratic environment, relief from personal and corporate income taxes, timely repatriation of corporate profits, and proximity to the United States with extensive air and communication links, and a good pool of skilled professionals. The Bahamas is a member of the CARICOM and a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA)), Canada’s CARIBCAN Program, and signatory to the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The Bahamas welcomes foreign investment in tourism, banking, agricultural and industrial areas that generate local employment opportunity and skills transfers. The majority of successful foreign investments have been in the areas of tourism and banking. In the wake of high energy costs and antiquated generation plants, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas (GCOB) is reviewing proposals for alternative energy sources. This is expected to create opportunities for foreign direct investment in the energy industry. The Government reserves retail and wholesale outlets, most construction projects, and many small businesses exclusively for Bahamians.
- Tourism related activities directly contribute 60% of The Bahamas’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in 2014 the Country welcomed over 6 million, mostly American tourists. Financial services constitute the second most important sector of the economy and accounts for up to 15% of GDP. The Financial Services Sector includes over 280 banks and trust companies which have a combined balance sheet of more than $300 Billion and $1 trillion in assets under administration. Agriculture and industry together account for less than 10% of GDP but has been given place of priority by the current administration. Within the near term the country’s largest export will remain services followed by a few commodities which include chemicals, polystyrenes, pharmaceuticals and industrial salt.
- The Bahamas provides good basic infrastructure for businesses. Utility rates are high compared to the U.S. and wider Caribbean Region. The Bahamas Electricity Company (BEC), the Water & Sewerage Corporation and the national airline (Bahamas Air) are the largest State Owned Enterprises and all have undertaken large capital projects to improve the quality of service. The GCOB has undertaken massive road improvement projects since 2007 both in Nassau and on the Family Islands to alleviate severe traffic congestion in Nassau and upgrade infrastructure for underground utilities. The Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) redevelopment project is complete and a new airport gateway has led to an ease of access to and from the international airport. There is regular air and sea transportation between the major developed islands and direct airlift to several major US Airport hubs. Telecommunication service is adequate but improvements are expected with the recent liberalization of the sector.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has pre-clearance facilities in both Nassau and Freeport, offering ease of travel for tourists and businesspersons travelling to and from the United States.
- The governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the opposition Free National Movement both have good relations with the business community. No serious political movement in Bahamian history has ever advocated the nationalization of foreign property. There is little history of political violence or instability in The Bahamas. Politics tend to follow the British model of combining sometimes intense rhetoric with courtly manners. The political issue of most interest to the business community is to increase foreign direct investment.
Good market opportunities are available in the following sectors:
- Hotel/Tourism supplies and services
- Construction equipment and supplies
- Consumer products (including energy efficient products)
Best Prospects - Leading Sectors for U.S. Export and Investment
- Renewable/Alternative Energy
- Machinery and Transportation Equipment
- Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Products
- Telecommunication Equipment and Services
- Niche Tourism including eco-tourism/sports/conventions