Published on : Thursday, December 28, 2017
After four months following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda, residents fear that the central government on neighbouring Antigua might withdraw a centuries-old system of communal land rights in what activists have described as “disaster capitalism” at work.
Since emancipation from slavery in 1834, Barbudans have governed their land in common, without private ownership. But according to the Antigua and Barbuda government, change is necessary to rebuild the island. The parliament is expected to amend legislation which codified the 200-year-old tradition of communal ownership. The existing law says that all land on Barbuda is owned communally and land parcels cannot be bought and sold. The proposed amendment would eradicate that system and establish private, freehold land ownership.
Barbudan activists are seeing the change as an effort to develop their island for mass tourism in neighboring Antigua. Barbuda’s 1,600 people live in a single settlement, Codrington, while the rest of the 63-square-mile island has largely been left to its natural state of mangroves and scrub brush. In comparison, tourism dominates 109-square-mile Antigua, from all-inclusive resorts to a downtown cruise port.