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Land Is Capital

by Dickson Igwe
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Resident columnist Dickson Igwe

Land is part of the capital mix. Land as capital is the mold for shaping and situating human society, productivity and activity.

Now, the Caribbean cliché ‘’ land don’t spoil’’ is an appropriate assertion. We are born, exist, and die, on land. Nothing happens without the land. Civilization evolved on land.

Then all the various types of capital from enterprise, labor, management and technology to machinery, buildings, finance, and natural resources, require land to transform into the form that producers and consumers require.

One sage person stated that the person who owns the land owns the country. That was an accurate observation.

From ancient times, the people who owned and controlled the land possessed power to rule and decide on scarce resource allocation. 

Today, international borders determine social, economic, and political boundaries. That is so even when it may appear that the world is becoming increasingly borderless with Avant-garde technologies such as Artificial intelligence, robotics, internet banking, digitization, and wireless trading.

Land is a crucial asset socially, politically, and economically. Social capital such as schools, hospitals, care homes, ports, police stations, government offices all require land to exist. Economic capital, like shops, hotels, banks, farms, warehouses, restaurants, factories, and workshops- the list is endless- all require land.

Virgin Islanders guard their land zealously and rightly so. The Wickham’s Cay Matter with the Great Noel Lloyd’s Positive Action Movement where a threat to control key lands on the archipelago by Bates Hill and Co was a demonstration of this native understanding of the importance of land ownership for the country’s posterity.

That local land ownership was unlike the history of Caribbean Islands where land remained in the hands of the European planters, and then a wealthy European bourgeoisie, even after the plantation era. That inability to own the land by former slaves and their families created a permanent underclass of landless Caribbean indigenes.

However, in the British Virgin Islands, providence and history saw a significant portion of the land transferred to the native population. A landless population is a disenfranchised population.

Land ownership by the native population post slavery allowed for the building of humble homes, subsistence farming that fed the population, basic docking for fishing boats, the first schools and clinics, and more, leading to the establishment of a self-governing and self-sufficient community. Native land ownership has been integral to Virgin Islands culture.

Land ownership by natives started a new community led by light-skin creoles who were the product of white planters and their enslaved mistresses. These creoles owned a greater proportion of the land than their darker skinned brothers and sisters post slavery, allowing these families to become entrepreneurs and landowners whose progeny became the new elite after the wealthy white planters returned to the United Kingdom. Social class in the Virgin Islands has land ownership as the key factor to this day.

Land ownership has driven the social structure of the Virgin Islands and enabled a thriving business community. The supermarket owner, drinking water supplier, quarry business, building contractor, building supplies, private hospital, local hotel, seaside restaurant, car rental, and so on and so forth, would not exist without the efforts of forbears who owned land passed on. Businesses that rent premises also benefit from land as part of their capital mix.

Control and ownership of land has allowed native Virgin Islanders and citizens to own businesses, communal property such as churches and community centers, and the homes where they dwell. Land, with the added forms of capital such as enterprise and technology, drives Virgin Islands prosperity. Native Virgin Islanders, citizens of the Virgin Islands of all hues and ethnicities, must never take land ownership for granted, or they will wake up one morning to the life of regret of the dispossessed. ‘’Land don’t spoil’’ and land lasts many generations.

Dickson Igwe

Dickson Igwe

Dickson Igwe is an education official in the Virgin Islands. He is also a national sea safety instructor. He writes a national column across media and has authored a story book on the Caribbean: ‘The Adventures of a West Indian Villager’. Dickson is focused on economics articles, and he believes economics holds the answer to the full economic and social development of the Caribbean. He is of both West African and Caribbean heritage. Dickson is married with one son.


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