After Sugar - New Opportunities in St. Kitts
In St. Kitts, some of the real estate for sale on the southern side of the island and the arid eastern end is in private hands, and though difficult to find is available to non-nationals. The rest of the real estate is government owned and almost impossible to buy in a normal life time! Governments move in inexplicably slow time dimensions and in even more mysterious marketing realms. For example, advertising half acre plots at $40,000 a piece through SKY TV in the UK only.
In Nevis, pretty much all the land is in the hands of private owners, and some of the larger homes and commercial properties are owned by expatriates from all over the world.
Two tiny countries, two proud peoples, and one unique federation makes St.Kitts & Nevis a strong player among the Eastern Caribbean countries.
Separated by a five mile strip of sea, and linked by ferries from the centre of Basseterre in St. Kitts to the centre of Charlestown in Nevis, there are many differences. Many of them to do with the rules and some of the customs governing the purchase of land and property for both non-nationals and nationals.
St. Kitts Real Estate
In this article I will concentrate on St. Kitts and look at Nevis next time. Much of the policies and decisions that the government of St. Kitts is now making over the sale of real estate is a result of 300 years of sugar planting, and all the economic, social, legal, cultural and geological effects that impact a land over a third of a millennium.
A Member of the regional OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States), and of the larger Caricom, the Federation looks towards the end of 2005 and the advent of Caricom's Single Market Economy (CSME) with real hope for the future. ( http://www.jis.gov.jm/special_sections/CARICOMNew/CSME1.html)
Growth in St.Kitts this year is expected to exceed 6%.
The 64 square miles that constitute the island of St.Kitts has abundant rivers flowing from the high rainfall that is collected on the central mountain ranges and rainforests. And its this abundance of water that kept the sugarcane fields rich and fertile.
In 1814 the sugar plant in Basseterre began to manufacture sugar. It was built to consolidate the production of sugar from the many plantations on the lower slopes of the central mountain range of St. Kitts, and close to the harbour in order to ship the sugar out on sailing ships (say that after you have had a couple of cane sugar rums....) as efficiently as possible.
Later on a railway was built that circled the island and ran through all the major plantations, collecting cane during the two harvests of the year. This railway has now been turned into a wonderfully romantic way of seeing St. Kitts, aboard a specially constructed train for viewing the countryside. ( http://www.stkittsscenicrailway.com/)
By the 1960s the sugar cane plantations were in trouble. Trade Unions, private owners, co-operatives and government finally worked out a nationalization agreement in which all private plantations were bought out over a 20 year agreement by the government owned St.Kitts Sugar Manufacturing Corporation.
These plantations included thousands of acres of sugar fields which became government property. Within the agreement owners retained 50 acres of their lands for farming. On the 31st of July 2005 the last cane was crushed and the factory closed down, sugar manufacturing ceased in St. Kitts. This briefly explains why so much land is owned and controlled by the Kittitian government.
As to what is going to happen with all of that land, if decisions have been made then they have not been communicated to the populace, which is another story told elsewhere.!
One interesting fact has emerged though recently, the hundreds of years of planting and cane sugar root systems have created an aquefer underneath Basseterre, the capital of St.Kitts. Estimations are currently very broad, but millions and millions of gallons of water have formed a huge reserve under the town, an important natural resource, and if planting is not continued a resource that is now finite.
The Marriott Hotel which uses 1.3 million gallons a day mainly on the golf course has its own RO, or reverse osmosis plant. New developments of this size will also have to provide their own resources both with power and water since the national systems were not built to cope with this level of useage.
The arid area from Frigate Bay all the way to Nags Head the most eastern point of St. Kitts was never planted. A few years ago Frigate Bay was set aside for special tourist development by the Government, and a few high profile investors courted. Some of these came through, including the Marriott Hotel which built a 1000 rooms, and a five star hotel of 300 rooms is scheduled for completion by 2007. Other smaller tourism projects have been completed, and new ones started.
At present there is only one very small ill-equipped marina in St. Kitts, but there is a new development starting which will considerably increase the appeal of stopping in St.Kitts for tourist charters out of St. Maarten/St.Martin, Antigua or Guadelope. It will definitely put St. Kitts and Nevis on the yachting map. About time too, this has been a long time coming, and there is plenty of good sailing and anchoring in St. Kitts.