Government is committed to a speedy conclusion to land acquisition payments.
This assurance has come from Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development George Payne, who was leading the debate on the Land Acquisition Act, Cap 228 in connection with land at Harrismith St Philip, in the House of Assembly today.
However, the Minister said that both administrations had been tardy in paying landowners.
“We are trying with respect to compensation going forward to ensure as soon as possible after an acquisition that the relevant settlement will be made. I say this because over the years successive governments, not just the former administration, but the Barbados Labour Party when we were in Government too we have been somewhat tardy in paying compensation for persons whose lands we have acquired. However, I would say though that in 50 per cent of these cases the delay or failure of Government to pay has not been any negligence or delinquency on the part of Government.”
Payne cited one example where the land owner was demanding way more than the original value of the property.
“We have had a recent acquisition by Government where the land owner was disputing a valuation of $4 million dollars but when it came time for the acquisition …We have correspondence for five successive years where this land owner sought to have the land taxes reduced to $2 million but lo and behold Government decides that they are going to acquire the property and we got a valuation for $39 million out of the blue….,” the St Andrew MP lamented.
The Minister said he knows of cases, including one involving a relative, where landowners were hard done by. However, he said in most cases the dispute arises when landowners refuse to accept what Government offers.
“The public out there sometimes believes that Government purposely decides that they are going to, or rather arbitrarily, take away somebody’s land and then they don’t want to pay.
“We have situations where if you go to the lower end – although they might be some justification because I know that my family was a victim of this – lands which were acquired at 17 cents a square foot and then the same land was sold at $20 a square foot. But in most cases the difficulty or failure of Government to pay compensation is because the land owner has refused to accept the sums which Government has advanced…”