Government of the Bahamas

Bahamas Government

The Bahamas is a member of the British Commonwealth and has a parliamentary democracy, or a constitutional multi-party parliamentary democracy to be precise.

The Bahamas achieved independence from Great Britain on July 10, 1973. The Government is headed by the Prime Minister and there is an upper house, the Senate (a 16-member body appointed by the governor general upon the advice of the prime minister and the opposition leader for five-year terms) and a lower House of Assembly (40 seats; members elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms). Queen Elizabeth II is the nominal Head of State and is represented in The Bahamas by an appointed Governor General.

Presently there is no direct taxation, i.e. on capital gains, corporate earnings, personal income, sales, inheritance or dividends. Though their now is a stamp tax of 7% on goods imported for business use. The absence of income, corporate, and inheritance taxes means that import duties are the main source of Bahamas government revenue. As a result, tariff rates are very high; the Bahamas raises some 65 percent of its revenues from import tariffs. The general rate of duty charges on imports is 32 percent, though there are numerous exemptions (for example the duty rate on computer equipment is 0%). There are no other significant barriers to trade. This duty can be considered a tax. There is also licensing fee for businesses which can also be considered a “tax” as this license fee can vary with earnings (“gross receipts”).

Private property is easy to acquire and protect in the Bahamas, which has an advanced and efficient legal system based on English common law. The judiciary is independent, and the likelihood of expropriation is low. The Bahamas has increasingly adopted a more socialistic “hands-on” approach to “regulating” businesses and licensing.

A commission meets at intervals of not less than 5 years to review the constituency boundaries.

The constitution allows for three distinct types of legislation: the ‘specially entrenched’ provisions relating to parliament itself and the judicial system require a three-quarters majority in both houses and a popular referendum; ‘entrenched’ provisions require a two-thirds majority in both houses; and other legislation a simple majority vote.


Structure of the Bahamas Government

The Bahamas is a parliamentary democracy similar to the of the United Kingdom, with regular elections (typically every 5 years), and an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

As a Commonwealth country, the Bahamas’ political and legal traditions parallel that of the United Kingdom. The Bahamas recognizes the British monarch as its nominal head of state, while an appointed Governor General serves as the Queen’s representative in The Bahamas. ‘Nominal’ in this context means not real, i.e., more of a figurehead.

The Bahamas has a bicameral legislature (‘bi’ meaning two) consisting of the House of Assembly and the Senate that enacts laws under the 1973 constitution.

The leader of the majority party serves as Prime Minister which is the head of government. The cabinet consists of at least nine members, including the Prime Minister and ministers of executive departments. They answer politically to the House of Assembly.

The House of Assembly consists of 40 members, elected from individual constituencies for 5-year terms. The House of Assembly performs all major legislative functions.

The Senate consists of 16 members appointed by the Governor General, including nine on the advice of the Prime Minister, four on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and three on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

The Governor General appoints the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The Governor General appoints the other justices with the advice of a judicial commission. The Privy Council of the United Kingdom serves as the highest appellate court.