ST JOHN'S - Barbuda is paradise on earth: a small Caribbean island with beautiful beaches and clear waters full of fish and lobster. Worth noting: on Barbuda, land is not for sale. There is a system of communal land ownership. But cracks are appearing in that, now that property developers have their eye on the island.

Barbuda is part of the twin state of Antigua and Barbuda.  The island is 124 square kilometers and some 1,600 people live there. Private land ownership does not exist and that was enshrined in the Land Act of 2007. But Prime Minister Gaston Browne sees the coastline as a source of revenue for his government and nevertheless granted a lease to foreign investors to build the Barbuda Ocean Club. A private paradise that includes a golf course and marina.

Jackie Franck is ex-vice president of the local council and sees it with dismay. "This is about a group of people who want to own a piece of Barbuda. The government wants to capitalize on it. But the people of Barbuda don't."

Construction of the international airport is also under fire. Premier ordered it after the devastating Hurricane Irma in 2017. "It was all planned," says Marine biologist John Mussington. "Reconstruction was delayed and obstacles were put in the way. I had heard of disaster capitalism. But this is the first time I've experienced it."

Mussington and Franck sued the central government. The case will appear at the U.K. Privy Council in London on Nov. 8.

Lieven Bulckens

Lieven Bulckens is a Belgian freelance filmmaker and photographer.
Lieven Bulckens