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Bahamas Modern History

When the Bahamas became independent in 1973, the left liberal PLP dominated the political scene. It was not until 1992 that the right-wing FNM won a choice. The country's economic development has been positive, although it is partly hampered by corruption. The Bahamas is also tamped with demands from the outside world for greater transparency in the financial sector and for measures to combat drug smuggling.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Prime Minister Lynden Pindling ruled the Bahamas since 1967 and at the time of independence sat securely in the saddle. In the 1970s and 1980s, uninterrupted economic growth continued since the end of the Second World War. But politically, the period was dominated by problems with corruption and drug smuggling.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Bahamas. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Pindling was gradually pushed by the United States to investigate allegations that he and his ministers were involved in drug dealing. Pindling appointed an inquiry, which in 1984 identified several ministers as guilty. There was no evidence against Pindling himself. Americans were not happy, and relations with the United States were strained during the latter part of the 1980s. The Bahamas was also accused of allowing criminals to launder money in tax havens' banks. Pindling gradually allowed the United States to intervene in drug trafficking in Bahamian territory.

Contemporary History of BahamasArms and drug trafficking

The PLP went on to win the parliamentary elections but the scandals hurt Pindling and the party. As the economy declined in the early 1990s, the outlook for the opposition further improved. In the 1992 elections, for the first time, the Free National Movement (FNM) and its leader Hubert Ingraham won the government.

In 1995, a commission revealed irregularities and neglect in three state-owned companies. The hard work against corruption and a few years of economic upturn paid dividends in the 1997 elections, when FNM again won. After the second election loss, Lynden Pindling left the post as PLP leader after 32 years.

The FNM government tried to fight the growing crime, often linked to arms and drug trafficking, including tightened gun laws. After twelve years without any death penalty, five were sentenced to death at the end of the 1990s. However, the number of serious crimes continued to increase.

In 2000, the Bahamas was put on lists of tax havens and countries where money laundering occurs, by the international bodies OECD and FATF. The Bahamas were removed from the lists the following year, since the government tightened the rules for the banks.

PLP regains power

PLP's new leader, lawyer Perry Christie, accused the government of having regulated the financial sector too hard, which he claimed had given the Bahamas disadvantages compared to other tax havens. In the parliamentary elections held in 2002, the PLP won by a good margin and the party regained power. Christie became new prime minister.

Prior to the next election, in 2007, PLP highlighted how the country's economy had flourished during the term of office. The FNM sought to make the election a "moral issue" when a series of scandals lay the ruling party in the barrel. One was the American model Anna Nicole Smith's alleged priority in the immigration queue. Smith owned a home in the Bahamas and lived there for a few months until his death from an overdose, in February 2007. The country's migration minister was forced to resign following the charges.

FNM won the election held in May and Hubert Ingraham returned as prime minister. He promised to address the country's two major political challenges: illegal immigration and crime.

The global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 brought Bahamas declining tourism revenue the following year, but the economy soon recovered, although growth was low.

Increased murder rate

A decision to sell a majority stake of state telecommunications company BTC to a private company led to violent demonstrations in the winter of 2010–2011, and clashes occurred between protesting union members and the police. The Supreme Court rejected a protest against privatization and Parliament approved it. The government argued that sales were necessary for Bahamas economic development.

An alarming increase in the number of murders in 2010 led to the formation of a new police force and a special court to set up cases where firearms were used. Despite this, the number of murders continued to increase in the years that followed.

The escalating violent crime was used as a baton for the 2012 election, in which the PLP accused the FNM government of not acting sufficiently forcefully. The election resulted in a clear victory for the PLP, which nearly tripled its representation in parliament. FNM lost over half of its mandate. PLP leader Perry Christie returned as head of government and appointed himself Finance Minister as well.

Web shops

FNM leader Ingraham resigned after the election as party leader and also left his seat in parliament. Therefore, a filling election was held in October which was also won by PLP. Hubert Minnis was elected new FNM leader.

A proposal to legalize online gambling with money, in the Bahamas called "web shops", and to create a national lottery was rejected in a 2013 referendum. Although the online games were illegal, they were common. The government, which hoped to collect tax money, stated after the vote that it was only advisory, and the following year it was still decided on licenses for a limited number of web shops, while at the same time expanding the gaming business at the hotel's casinos.

PLP, which made the choice to re-nationalize the telecom company BTC, started negotiations with the buyer, the British company CWC, to buy back a majority share in the company. The British were initially reluctant, but in 2014 the state resumed ownership of a share that made it formally a majority shareholder, even though the CWC retained the majority.

 
 

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