Government is looking to settle over three decades of debt in land and building acquisitions and is currently in negotiations with owners for the best deal. Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance Dr William Duguid told Parliament on Tuesday.
He said that the Sam Lord’s Castle property is prime among the acquired real estate for which money is owed and his ministry is in talks with the proprietors.
He told the House of Assembly that the Sam Lord’s acquisition payment is “gaining significant attention and negotiation [and officials are] very close to completion on that”.
Dr Duguid told the House: “We are also looking at all acquisitions that government has made both for road improvement, house moving, whatever it is over the last 25- 30 years.
“All of those, every single one we’ll put together and I will be taking to Cabinet very shortly with a move to settle all acquisitions that are outstanding.”
The minister’s statement was in response to a question from Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley on the situation regarding government’s debt for Sam Lord’s, which he said is in excess of $50 million.
The issue of debt to Sam Lord’s arose after Dr Duguid had tabled a resolution to abandon the compulsory acquisition land at Harrismith, St Philip. The sprawling, windswept, beachfront land is in the shadow of the ruins of an iconic plantation house.
The minister said owners demanded more than double the original price for the land combined with COVID-19 related economic challenges, causing government to forego efforts to acquire the 10.9 hectares.
Dr Duguid explained: “The Crown had anticipated that we would be paying $10 million for this parcel of land to be able to construct housing and also for tourism development. Subsequent to that, the then owners put in a claim that it should be $24 million.”
He added that owing to costs of the pandemic on the economy, “we have decided that $10 million or north of $10 million would be better spent trying to provide jobs and opportunities for people in Barbados other than this development at this time”.
Atherley said Government is abandoning the housing project while housing continues to be a problem in Barbados.
The Opposition Leader said that the administration is putting COVID-19 expenses as the reason for leaving the needed project, yet it is “the same government that is promising the world that it would afford them free tickets to vacation in Barbados; the same government that is spending money on all kinds of other stuff despite the presence of the COVID threat and having to deal with that”. (GA)