Cabinet commenced its meeting at about 10:30 am with prayers from a Methodist Minister, and the meeting concluded at 5:30 pm or seven hours later. All members were present.
1. The Cabinet took the decision to reduce further the restrictions which governed during the Covid-19 pandemic. All persons entering Antigua and Barbuda, commencing next Wednesday, 13 April 2022, subject to any evidence regarding any new variant, shall be allowed to enter without vaccination. However, all those persons who are unvaccinated are required to submit to a PCR Test, no more than 4 days old, before boarding their flight to Antigua. This rule was already in place for nationals and residents of Antigua and Barbuda. The lifting of the restriction now extends to tourists, visitors and in-transit passengers.
2. The Minister of Tourism reported that American Airlines continued to experience full flights to Antigua, and that carrier lands four flights on some days from Miami, New York and Charlotte. The hotels continue to experience high occupancy rates, and the spill over into restaurants, places of entertainment, and car rentals continue to grow. Government’s revenue has also begun to rise as more tourists continue to pour into Antigua and Barbuda by cruise ship, private yachts and even charter flights.
3. The Cabinet invited Mr. Hubert Jarvis, General Manager of ABTB, to settle the issue of the use of vouchers to realize a 25% reduction in fuel prices being offered to bus drivers and taxi drivers. Mr. Jarvis concluded that vouchers are of three values: 3 gallons, 5 gallons and 10 gallons; they will be distributed to bus drivers and taxi drivers; the bus drivers will receive a maximum value of 50 gallons per week and taxi drivers 40 gallons per week. Each voucher will reflect the 25% reduction that has been offered by the Government and will have a shelf life of ten days; vouchers will be issued every seven days. The gas stations that are participating have agreed that the only sensible system with which they can work is the voucher system, which will allow ease of sale at any pump at the identified gas stations.
4. The Cabinet invited the General Manager of APUA and the Water Manager of APUA to address the water challenges which have been exacerbated by a continuous drought. The Cabinet has assured that the plant at Crabbs will have new membranes by the 27th of April and it will increase production to 1.7 million gallons daily. The plant at Fort James sails from Dubai on the 17th of April and will arrive Antigua about four weeks later; it will likely be operational by July. The building and the planting of pipes are being worked on in the meantime. It will produce 700,000 gallons daily and will end the distress that the home owners and businesses in St. John’s might be currently experiencing. The Cabinet was also informed by the APUA Water Manager that the difficulty being experienced with getting water to higher elevations is to be solved by adding booster pumps online to get water to go up hill. In Liberta in particular negotiations are continuing with the church to allow for a pump to be placed on its property. That will end the difficulties which residents on higher elevation in the village are presently experiencing.
5. The Solicitor General and Crown Counsel were invited to Cabinet to discuss the legal intricacies which the Gravesnor Bay lease in Barbuda pose. A request for the subdivision of the lease has been made, and an attempt to involve the Development Control Authority in an attempt to acknowledge lawful control over the property that has remained undeveloped since the lease was agreed-to. The Cabinet continues to assert that the purpose for which the lease was issued has been frustrated and, therefore, the land ought to revert to the lessor under law.
6. The Cabinet met with the Egg Layers Association consisting of its President, its Vice President and the Public Relations Officer who are seeking subsidies and other concessions, in order to maintain the current price of eggs. After an intense discussion it was agreed that locally-produced eggs are more competitive than the imported eggs and they should remain that way, despite increased costs which the egg farmers are experiencing. Cabinet has agreed that the subsidy which other farmers enjoy in the purchase of water and electricity from APUA is to be extended to the egg farmers. Since many of the egg farmers are located on Sanderson’s Estate, APUA will plant the necessary poles and run the water lines so that the egg farmers can access these APUA supplies. It was also agreed that the solar lights that have been allocated to some farmers will also be extended to the egg farmers to reduce praedial larceny.
7. i. The Villa Polyclinic will be commissioned on Thursday 7th April at 1:00 p.m. The object is to keep it operational 24 hours a day and have it serve as a diagnostic center. Dental work and other kinds of health care services that are offered by the Central Board of Health will be undertaken at the polyclinic.
ii. The Dr. Cuthwin Lake Center on Nugent Avenue will now serve as an Eye-Care Centre and will provide ambulatory services to SLBMC patients.
iii. The Board of the Global Climate Fund will hold its annual meeting in Antigua at the Conference Room of the John E. St. Luce Financial Center on May 27th. The Minister of Works informed the Cabinet that the Center has been utilized by paying customers since its opening and it is being marketed as a place for meetings.
8. I. The Pares Secondary School is to be renamed, on its 50th Anniversary, the Cardinal King Secondary School / Pares. It is the name of its first principal.
ii. The Grace Hall Moravian Church, Jennings, will be celebrating its 200th Anniversary, having been founded on the 10th April, 1822. The service of worship will be held on Sunday 10th April at 2:00 pm in the afternoon. The Prime Minister, as well as the Parliamentary Representative and the Minister of Education will attend. The Church building served as a Primary School even before the 1834 end of slavery and continued to do so for more than a century until a Government-built Primary School replaced it. The Cabinet expressed enormous gratitude to the Moravians for the uplift of the African-descendant peoples of many communities and villages.
9. The Cabinet congratulated Dr. Michael Browne Ph.D., the Parliamentary Representative for All Saints West, on achieving his Doctorate in Education Degree (D.ED).