Hurricane recovery reignites dispute
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.”