Bahamas only per capita GDP faller within the Caribbean

THE Bahamas was yesterday exposed as the only Caribbean nation to suffer a decline in per capita GDP this century, while also being the “notable exception” to major tourist arrivals growth.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) book, Unleashing Growth and Strengthening Resilience in the Caribbean, found that real per person GDP in the Bahamas had declined by an annual average of 0.4 per cent between 2000-2015.

It was the only nation to suffer such a reverse, according to the book, which noted that average regional per capita GDP had risen by an average of 1.2 per cent over the same period.

And, while tourism arrivals to the Caribbean had more than doubled in the 20 years between 1995 and 2014, the Bahamas was identified as the only country to miss out on such growth due to the “maturity” of its main industry and relative lack of new hotel rooms over that period.

“The volume of tourists has more than doubled in the Caribbean, from 12 million in 1995 to 26 million tourists in 2014, fuelled by steady growth in key advanced economies and strong inflows of foreign direct investment,” the IMF book said.

“The notable exception is the Bahamas, where tourist arrivals have remained mostly flat since the mid-1990s, largely because of the maturity of its market.”

The relative lack of growth in this country’s main industry likely provides part of the explanation for why the Bahamas has struggled for economic growth, especially in the decade since the 2008-2009 recession.

The IMF book identified a variety of factors, common to most Caribbean nations, that were inhibiting economic growth such as high crime, debt, unemployment and non-performing loan levels, coupled with bureaucratic bottlenecks and obstacles to the ‘ease of doing business’, plus vulnerability to natural disasters such as hurricanes.

It suggested that the Bahamas needed to tackle all these weaknesses, and more, to achieve greater GDP expansion, arguing that most emphasis should be placed on improving the ‘ease of doing business’ climate and reducing banks’ non-performing loans (NPLs) to free up the credit markets.

Other priorities for this nation were identified as greater investment and development of the Bahamian workforce; cutting crime; and reducing vulnerability to hurricanes and natural disasters. Cutting debt and trade integration were regarded as less important.

On tourism, the IMF book noted that the Bahamas’ share of total tourist arrivals had decreased from 13 per cent of 12.3 million in 1995 to 5 per cent of 26.1 million in 2014. This means the Bahamas is getting less of an expanding market, with worrying implications for this nation’s economy moving forward.

When it came to annual airlift, the IMF book revealed the Bahamas as receiving the third-most flights from the US in 2014, behind Cancun and the Dominican Republic. It was also behind those two, and Jamaica, on passengers with 1,286,118, and had the smallest average plane size of all Caribbean destinations - apart from Dominica and St Kitts - with 86 seats.

While the Bahamas had service from the highest number of cities at 18, its ‘vacancy rate’ was also near the top at 28.


SP 6 years, 7 months ago

We can thank Pillage Loot Plunder AND former Foreign National Movement Prime Ministers Perry Gladstone Christie and Hubert Alexander Ingraham for leading our country and people to destruction.

Moody's, the IMF, and S&P rightly crowned Christie and Ingraham the worse leaders in the region. Having earned the nickname "Dumb and Dumber", they will be recorded in history as total failures.

Now that we have finally rid ourselves of these two political sellouts, we must pull together and move our country Forward, Upward, Onward, Together!


Porcupine 6 years, 7 months ago

GDP per capita is a horrible way to analyze a countries progress. That said, we are probably in worse shape than the paper noted.

DaGoobs 6 years, 7 months ago

The evidence has been right in front of our eyes for some time but we have failed or refused to heed the message. Airline tourist arrivals that have hardly grown in 40 years, cruise ship passengers who hardly spend anything, a downtown where a lot of the major businesses are now T-shirt shops, few if any businesses downtown east of East Street North, declining purchasing power and salaries with increased inflation, etc. These problems began before Ingraham and Christie but continued during their regimes. Time for some new ideas about how to progress this country beyond the Stafford Sands economic model.

SP 6 years, 7 months ago

"DaGoobs" agreed. However, if you are referring to tourism as "Stafford Sands economic model", let's call a spade a spade for once and firstly acknowledge Stafford Sands was no genius for simply copying Cuba, which between 1915 and 1930, Havana, was estimated to have hosted the largest number of tourists than any other location in the Caribbean while the Bahamas was little more than a backward fishing village.


That being said, tourism was among the main economic drivers of other Caribbean regional developments and continues to be the engine producing sustainable growth to many competing tourist destinations which we dominated prior to Pindling, Ingraham, and Christie.

Calls for diversifying the Bahamian economy are well and good. However, we must also realize the reason for our current bad position could not be blamed on failing tourism markets. The Bahamas failed due to poor leadership, political corruption, gross stupidity and greed of the UBP, PLP and former FNM.

The Bahamas must now redouble efforts focused on developing the country as a tourist destination using Orlando as benchmark as was originally envisioned by Mr. Walt Disney.

Even in our current poor position, I truly believe the dark cloud hanging over us has a silver lining. We now have the envious opportunity to look at top performing regional resort destinations and cherry pick the best of the best successful resort amenities and introduce them in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas proximity to 400M North Americans alone suggests tourism remains our best bet for rapid sustainable growth, as we are better positioned to compete for stayover visitors than the majority of regional resort destinations who are now feeling the pinch from an ever-expanding cruise industry.

John 6 years, 7 months ago

The tourism marketing and growth plan seems to have been lost over the past five years. And despite the dumping of millions and more millions in Carnival, this event was never properly marketed and hardly, if ever marketed to the international market. Tourism needs a hefty dusting off and brought back to the fore. One thing too that tourist complain about is The bahamas has become too Americanized . A common complaint is Tourist can get a lot of stuff thats here back at home, and it's far less cheaper.The big hotels have virtually destroyed the tourist product by trying to eliminate the Bahamian experience. And when Bahamians go to other Caribbean countries, like Trinidad and Jamaica and see that their culture is intact and night life and tourist participation is booming, they have to come back home embarrassed. Bahamians have been reduced to zoombie taxi drivers or talking parrots in the straw market.

sheeprunner12 6 years, 7 months ago

We have failed to revolutionize our tourism product despite having 30 inhabited islands and another 600+ cays ............ And despite the high value executives in the Ministry of Tourism. But DD will change that status quo and we will become the fastest-growing destination soon.

Socrates 6 years, 7 months ago

we are a country devoid of imagination; intellectually bankrupt, with no ideas to energize our tourism industry.. i'm afraid there is little reason for optimism regarding any improvement in our fate for the forseeable future.. proof is in the numbers for last 20 years at least..

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