Editorial for 23 March: Land grab law must change

It’s time for the Cayman Islands government to put in place
a modern, workable system in cases where compulsory acquisition is supposedly
being done for the general public good.

We agree with attorney Kate McLymont as she is quoted in
today’s front page article on the situation. The system is broken.

First and foremost, this law must change to allow landowners
some mechanism to challenge government’s use of compulsory acquisition – the
taking of private land for public purposes – in cases where it can reasonably
be argued that land is not being taken for the greater good. For instance, if
the government reserves land for a road it never builds and then doesn’t even
negotiate with the owners of the property until six years later, it’s quite
difficult to see what “greater good” is being achieved.

Right now, if Cabinet decides the public interest is served
by taking someone’s land; so it is written, so it shall be done. There must be some
mechanism to balance out that far-reaching and essentially uncontestable power.

Second, if a landowner wishes to dispute the amount they are
initially offered for a property, it seems their only recourse is a lengthy,
complex and expensive process, after which – if they lose – they could be on
the hook for massive legal fees.

Third, claims by government representatives that it doesn’t
help to delay payments owed to landowners shows a profound misunderstanding of
public finance. 

It does indeed help the government to delay these payments.

This is generally the point of incurring debt – i.e. money
you will owe someone in the future – that you don’t have to pay now. How can it
not assist the government to put off a debt it would otherwise have to find the
money to pay in the near term, particularly if that debt can be incurred at no
interest?

First rule of finance: Money now is worth more than money
later.

The current compulsory acquisition process does not
adequately protect the rights of landowners in the Cayman Islands and simply
isn’t fair.

It’s time for a change.

 

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Is there not a law which say if you take something not yours and not pay, you is a thief? So ones who take my land and not pay are thieves.

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