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RON IN COMMON: Raw deal for owners of small tenantries

ERIC SMITH, [email protected]

RON IN COMMON: Raw deal for owners of small tenantries

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IN THE MIDST of Crop Over and at a time when most people simply want to forget the many problems we are encountering, up comes another issue which captures national attention – the Municipal Solid Waste Tax has tongues wagging.
Those who understand and those who just want to join in the debate; sense or folly, are making their contribution.
I know politicians love anything which will attract attention and more importantly that will win votes. And since this tax has sufficient people in the debate either for or against, I want to appeal to the same politicians and all the others with a voice to lend their voice to another cause.
I speak of those owners of small tenantries all across Barbados who have been pushed aside and hard done.
It is not a sexy subject and the politicians will hardly speak out against it since they are more voters to win over than a few small landlords to offend. Most of the social and political commentators do not understand the issue. The media remains generally ignorant of this issue.
When the Tenantries Freehold Purchase legislation was passed some years ago it was described as revolutionary. This may have been so for the beneficiaries, but for many who by the sweat of their brow had worked and achieved a little piece of the rock , it was the beginning of heartaches. Lawyers, both Bees or Dees across this island, can speak to the problems the legislation has generated.
Neither the legislation nor the amendments took into consideration certain facts, and to this day, these landlords have been left to suffer. It did not take into consideration the big difference between the plantation tenantries and the small tenantries, as there is with sprawling areas such as Hanschell Land.
Many of the small landlords emerged out of the late 1960s and early 1970s when a number of then small sugar cane growers were virtually forced out of the industry because of escalating production cost.
Some of them opted not to go into food crops or poultry or pig production but decided to rent out a house spot. That was a time when people were buying houses from “Miss Rock” and “Joy Edwards”. It was also a time when the National Housing Corporation was not providing house spots in any large quantity so people were desperate for a place to put their house. It was an act of goodness which turned out to be a dagger to the heart.
For many of these new landlords it was an opportunity to earn something off the land while holding it for their children and grands and others whom they wanted to gain from an inheritance.
The legislation lumped them with the plantation tenantries and other big landowners seeking to right years of injustice  and exploitation. These landowners were seen as part of the group which had denied people from a right to land on which their forefathers had toiled long and hard for little in return. Not so.
These landlords were taxi drivers, masons, carpenters, small business people of all sorts who made sacrifices  to purchase a freehold only to see their hard earn efforts moved from right before them. Where they are more than five houses the tenants have all the rights, and the landlords are treated with contempt. So many landlords can only collect a pittance in terms of rent, when the tenants pay. The tenants can purchase the land at a subsidised price and if they do not want to purchase, well so be it. The landlord must pay the land tax.
As a politician once said, it is the first time that Robin Hood has robbed the poor to give to the poor. But more than that, it has denied many of a just and fair inheritance.
Perhaps, the Minister of Housing, Denis Kellman even without seeking to repeal the legislation needs to speak to the issue. So too should the opposition Barbados Labour Party whose former Minister of Housing Gline Clarke understands the situation.
It would be interesting to hear David Comissiong, then  the social commentators can join in and so too can the media, hopefully. But it is not a sexy issue and certainly not one to capture a lot of votes.
I understand the issue. My grandfather was the owner of a small tenantry.