KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent CMC – The St. Vincent and the Grenadines government Monday presented instruments to 185 persons in the Central Leeward town of Barrouallie allowing them to purchase lands at EC$0.10 cents (One EC dollar = US$0.37 cents) per square foot.
Some of the families have been living on the lands for as long as 80 years.
The 612,460 square feet of land in Glebe Hill on St. Vincent’s east coast originally belonged to the Anglican Church but was conveyed to the Christian Council in the mid 1980s.
The government paid the Christian Council EC$ EC$306,230, or EC$0.50 cents per square foot, a price significantly below the market price of three to five EC dollars per square foot.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at the presentation ceremony, said the Anglican Church had conveyed the lands freely and voluntarily to the Christian Council to be sub-divided to landless parishioners.
He, however, noted that the Anglican Church never said that the lands must be given away.
“They say 50 cents. I say that is a bargain. But, in light of how long the people have been there, we gave them at 10 cents per square foot,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves also responded to his critics, saying that some have said on radio that the land should be given to the people without any charge.
He however said that those critics were in power for 17 years and never gave the land to the people, a reference to the New Democratic Party (NDP), which came to office in 1984 and was voted out in 2001.
“Nobody in that government did anything. They can talk but I bring to you facts,” he said, adding that in addition to the money paid for the land, his administration paid over EC$200,000 to have the land surveyed.
He said that the deed that the Anglican Church conveyed to the Christian Council mandates that any money from the sale of the land must be ploughed back into the community.
Gonsalves said that his government has distributed some 2,000 lots of land at 55 locations across the country under similar terms and that the initiative is part of his government’s policy of turning dead capital into live capital.