Constructive Expropriation happening as Bajan political & business elites look to grab Canadian’s investment and prime land
As a successful business person, Canadian Peter Allard always tries to give something back to the world. Whether it is funding medical research into cancer, diabetes and HIV/Aids, establishing University scholarships, rebuilding the coastal reefs in Barbados, saving endangered species in St. Vincent, helping to form a National Park in Dominica, promoting social justice causes or working to save children and families devastated by HIV/Aids in Africa – Peter Allard is there.
“Two decades ago, Peter Allard fell in love with the Caribbean country of Barbados and the Bajan people who make this such a special place. As he had in other countries both rich and poor, he thought he could work with those in government to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.
Boy, was he wrong!”
A chicken for the plucking comes to Barbados
By the time Canadian philanthropist and businessman Peter Allard arrived in Barbados more than twenty years ago, a huge section of Graeme Hall swamp on our south coast was little more than a festering garbage dump waiting to be filled in and paved over. I remember as a child riding by the swamp and seeing men tipping an old refrigerator and other rubbish at the eastern pathways. What a stinking mess the place was with piles of household rubbish, construction demolition materials and rusting chemical barrels everywhere. Not to mention hundreds of plastic bags blowing in the tall grasses like little flags!
But mess or not, property developers had their eyes on the shrinking Graeme Hall wetlands and watershed because it was the last large tract on the southern coast. There was talk of condominiums and a golf course, a gated community and an industrial section in the north end. As still happens all the time throughout the island, certain political and business cartels that have no concern for the public good or the need for green space decided that Graeme Hall would be developed and with the help of their friends in government they would make a fortune.
Land Permissions: Money in the bank for the government and special friends!
Land permissions are everything in Barbados. If the developers purchase land for cheap because development is prohibited, but they already have agreed with their government friends to change the law to allow development – well, fortunes are made overnight!
That’s the way it is here. Always has been that way and if you are among the privileged Bajan political and business elites who have an “in” this is how millions are created out of nothing – often overnight on the basis of one signature with authority to allow development.
Of course, if you’re the poor farmer who sold your land for nothing because you were denied permission to develop for 30 years and then the permissions are given the week after you sold out to one of the big shot BLP or DLP lawyers – well, that’s tough for you!
Welcome to the “soft corruption” of the Barbados elites that makes millions overnight for those with “friends” and keeps the ordinary people down where they belong.
Government assurances to a Foreign Investor really said “Welcome sucker!”
The last remaining mangrove wetlands in the island would surely have been developed and met the same fate as all the other Bajan mangrove swamps had not the environmentally-minded Peter Allard in conjunction with like-thinking Barbadians believed that this precious natural treasure was worth saving for the Bajan people.
This wasn’t done in a vacuum. Allard didn’t just arrive one day and say “I think I’ll impose my will on the Barbados people and save that swamp and wetlands.” (Although if it was possible for Allard and others to force the Barbados elites to save some green space for the citizens, it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing I think.)
Nope, Allard didn’t act alone. Hundreds and then thousands of good Bajan citizens welcomed the plan to save some natural heritage and provide some green space, as did many of the politicians and other community leaders at the time. Allard and the citizens and the planners met with the government and received assurances that if the mangrove swamp and wetlands were restored and saved by Allard’s cash, it would be protected for all time for Bajans as the natural treasure it is.
“Allard was assured that the 1988 National Physical Development Plan protected the entire area, so he started writing cheques and employed hundreds of people as work progressed to restore the area and to build the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary.”
The nature sanctuary was the showpiece that made the Graeme Hall area a national tourism asset. It provided the organisational base to perpetuate knowledge and made resources available to continue to restore and protect Graeme Hall wetlands as a natural public treasure. In later years the nature sanctuary became almost self-supporting through tourism and hosting special events, but the shortfall as well as the development and construction costs came out of Allard’s pocket.
Later, the Government of Barbados had part of the area designated as protected under the RAMSAR treaty – apparently showing a commitment to preserve the last mangrove swamp on the island…
Ahhhh…. but leaving parts of the wetlands out of the RAMSAR treaty was a deliberate strategic move by the elites who knew all along what their goals were.
The government’s apparent commitment to preserve the natural area lasted only until Allard had spent US$35 million or so saving the Graeme Hall watershed and wetlands – and establishing the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary as a world-class eco-tourism facility.
“Thanks Sucker!” said the Barbados political and business elites, “Now that you’ve cleaned the place up, provided a showpiece, enhanced the area and made it more valuable for development, what fine condos we’ll be able to build.”
After assuring Allard and the thousands of Bajans who supported saving our wetlands that this area was protected in law, and after Allard invested tens of millions, the elites decided to CHANGE THE LAW TO ALLOW DEVELOPMENT!
That change was proposed under the BLP government of Owen Arthur and Mia Mottley – but it was the new DLP David Thompson government that acted and changed the law to allow development at Graeme Hall. That change was actually the Thompson government’s first legislative priority upon assuming power in January, 2008. And if that isn’t proof that BLP = DLP = “The Elites”, I don’t know what is.
Law Changed to allow development of the Graeme Hall wetlands
The thing about the law in Barbados is this: citizens know that the law is nothing more than a tool to be used by the elites when it suits them.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise to Bajans in January 2008 when the newly elected DLP Thompson government changed the law protecting 265 acres of parkland at Graeme Hall to allow developer friends to profit from these public lands. To make this happen, David Thompson and the DLP Members of Parliament had to set aside laws that had protected the land from development since 1988. When the government was finished, 2/3 of the parkland (175 acres) was gone.
“So much for assurances given to foreign investors that the laws in Barbados are such and such, that your long-term investment will be respected and protected. Cluck, cluck… send in the next foreign chicken for the plucking!”
Destroying the Sluice Gate to destroy the Graeme Hall wetlands
In the natural scheme of things, mangrove wetlands “breathe” with the tides as the salt water mixes with the fresh to provide the environment needed by so many species of plants, wildlife and fish. In the case of Graeme Hall, the connection to the salt water of the sea is controlled by the Barbados Government through a sluice gate that regulates the tidal flow to and from the wetlands and ponds.
When the elites decided it was time to squeeze Allard out of the picture – to make him fed up so he’d abandon his precious nature sanctuary to the developers, it was a simple matter to allow the sluice gate to deteriorate and so attack the nature sanctuary’s operations. (Oh… we’re not even talking about the government using the Nature Sanctuary swamp as an overflow for a sewerage treatment plant. Really!)
Of course Allard and the staff at the sanctuary initially thought the situation with the ever-broken sluice gate was typical government incompetence. The sanctuary paid for repairs over and over, educated the government officials and lobbied to save the wetlands, but after some time the truth became plain to see. The sabotage and neglect of the sluice gate was deliberate and continues to this day.
Next in this series: Part 2 – Barbados Government maintains the pressure, cuts off the water to the Nature Sanctuary
Note to the Bajan political and business elites:
Marcus and Clive put this article together from various public sources on the internet. If anyone finds any errors, please jump in and leave a comment. We’ve made some serious allegations about how the land permissions corruption works in Barbados and we’re particularly interested what people have to say ’bout that.
Come on, Prime Minister Thompson, Opposition Leader Mottley and particularly former PM Owen Arthur. We know you all read BFP. Now what do you have to say to citizens and to international investors about the land permissions allegations in this article? Let’s hear it!