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Major changes would be coming to the Barbuda Land Act, as the prime minister, Gaston Browne, has again labelled the legislation “unconstitutional”.
But, this time, he’s referring to a section of the law that his own administration passed in January, giving Barbudans the exclusive right to buy land on the island.
“Even this caveat that we have in the Barbuda Land Act, in which only Barbudans can buy land in Barbuda, that is unconstitutional and I am of the view that it ought to change,” Browne said yesterday, moments after he was sworn in as prime minister for a second term in Antigua and Barbuda.
It’s a piece of legislation which Barbudans had earlier rejected and had called on the government not to trample on their right by changing the law which said they owned the land in common.
In response, the government contended that the idea of allowing them to buy land was so that it would be beneficial to Barbudans since it would allow them to “gain a source of capital as they seek to empower themselves and families after the disastrous Hurricane Irma.”
But yesterday, Browne admitted that the government was “pampering” Barbudans “primarily to get their vote. That is the raw truth.”
His comments also came less than 24 hours after the results of the general elections in which his Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) candidate, Arthur Nibbs, lost his seat to Trevor Walker of the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM).
When asked whether this idea of changing the law again had anything to do with the defeat, Browne said “not necessarily” and added that “The time has come for us to do some realignment and to bring Barbuda into the 21st century, and I will say this without any fear of any reprisal from the Barbudans.”
Prior to the passage of the legislation earlier this year, land was not available for sale in Barbuda since all the Barbudans owned the land in common. But, they can now buy the land.
However, up to now, investors’ can only lease land in Barbuda and this has created a challenge for development on many occasions particularly because of the requirement to get the approval of the people of Barbuda and the Barbuda Council.
Browne said, “There should be one Land Act in this unitary state and I am going to give a commitment today [Thursday] that at some point we are going to go to parliament and change it and align it properly. We did it because we were trying to endear ourselves to them, we have gone the extra mile but the reality is, Barbuda cannot continue to be a welfare state.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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