Hur­ri­cane re­cov­ery reignites dis­pute

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FROMPAGE ONE - FROM NEWS AND WIRE RE­PORTS

The need to re­build hur­ri­cane-rav­aged Barbuda has reignited a decades-old dis­pute over who, if any­one, owns the land.

Most Bar­bu­dans say it be­longs to the peo­ple un­der a his­toric ten­ure sys­temthat has al­lowed any­body of Bar- bu­dan de­scent to use a plot for free.

But in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Irma, the gov­ern­ment has re­newed efffffffffff­forts to in­sti­tute a sys­te­mof for­mal in­di­vid­ual own­er­ship it says is nec­es­sary to get loans for re­con­struc­tion.

Gas­ton Browne, the prime min­is­ter of An­tigua and Barbuda — a sin­gle na­tion formed in 1981 fromthe two Caribbean is­lands, both for­mer Bri­tish colonies — has pro­posed al­low­ing Bar­bu­dans to buy the plots where they live for $1 each.

The deeds they would re­ceive in re­turn could be used as col­lat­eral for bank loans to re­build their homes, most of which were not in­sured.

“It’s a gift,” Browne said in an in­ter­view. “We are not tak­ing any­thing from them. We are giv­ing (to) them. It is a form of em­pow­er­ment.”

He de­scribed the cur­rent ar­range­ment in Barbuda as “squat­ting.”

For­eign­ers have long been able to lease land, and even that has been con­tro­ver­sial. A project led by movie star Robert De Niro and Aus­tralian bil­lion­aire James Packer to re­vamp a long-shut­tered lux­ury re­sort has drawn protests be­cause the terms of the lease are ex­tremely fa­vor­able to the in­vestors.

Some gov­ern­ment of­fif­fi­cials say such deals are the only way to draw much-needed in­vest­ment and devel­op­ment.

The prime min­is­ter said that with­out mod­ern­iz­ing the econ­omy, Barbuda would con­tinue to func­tion as a “wel­fare is­land.”

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