HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday July 6 2022

The Cabinet commenced its meeting at 11am and ended its meeting at 5:30pm.

The Prime Minister who was late in his arrival, traveled from the airport upon his return from Suriname. He gave a report on his meeting with the CARICOM Heads in Suriname. The Prime Minister reported that the CARICOM leaders were very much in support of re-energizing the Petro Caribe Agreement so that they can purchase less costly fuel for their populations from Venezuela. There was also an agreement to study the possibility of purchasing vessels for regional maritime transport in order to move passengers and goods to and from the large costal and island-states that are members of CARICOM. Additionally, the need for a regional air carrier was deemed essential. Regional leaders echoed the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister of St. Lucia during his opening remarks to the conference, “we all miss LIAT.” Greater connectivity is clearly required for the integration movement to succeed, the Heads concluded. The awarding of the highest CARICOM honour to Sir. Vivian Richards—the Order of the Caribbean Community—continued to be hailed by regional leaders. The award followed the nomination from the Prime Minister weeks before the regional leaders’ meeting.

1. The Cabinet invited three officials from the Administrative office of LIAT to speak of its future role and expansion. Two officials were present while the third administrator joined virtually. In the proposed new LIAT, the salaries, wages and other emoluments will take up a smaller part of its cost of operations. Currently three aircraft are being utilized, as opposed to 10 aircraft before the collapse of LIAT. The schedule plan for the new LIAT is intended to reflect the commercial needs and fulfillment of the territories; any destination requiring more flights than has been deemed necessary, would make a special payment to realize its ambition. A minimum revenue guarantee (MRG) would be applied in order to determine what that cost would be. Every territory to which LIAT flies will be asked to purchase shares, so that the burdens and the benefits can be equitably shared. The revenue earned by LIAT over these past twenty (20) months shows a small operating profit.

2. The Cabinet invited an NGO operated by two experts on Sargassum seaweed to address it. They have promised that revenue can be earned from seaweed in Antigua and Barbuda’s territorial seas, by capturing it before it gets to shore, determining the quantity and then sinking it to a depth of 3 kilometers or more beyond the continental shelf; revenue would be earned from operating a carbon sink. Their carbon-removal technology has not yet been tried in any other state; yet, they promise that Antigua and Barbuda will very likely become a leader in tackling the challenge posed by this invasive seaweed.

3. The Cabinet invited three officials from the Registrar’s Office to address an issue of land registration that plagues the department of land registry and the Inland Revenue Department. In an effort to take stock of abandoned properties which pose a security and environmental threat, the Cabinet invited the land registrar and lawyers working on legislation to allow for abandoned plots of land, not claimed 1976, and not having paid any property taxes in nearly 50 years, to be repurposed. The draft legislation will have its first reading in the parliament in two weeks.

4. Antigua and Barbuda was rated number 1 in the world on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). The EPI has declared Antigua and Barbuda as the country that emits the least ocean plastic out of 180 other countries. Antigua and Barbuda scored an EPI of 83.70, ranking number one out 180 countries, according to the Minister of Environment. The full report can be viewed online at epi.yale.edu/epi-results/2022/component/ocp.

i. The Minister of Health reported to Cabinet that the new COVID infections number continues to decline but is still a threat to the health of Antiguans and Barbudans. The Minister continues to urge those who have not yet taken the vaccine to do so. The Carnival season will soon cause thousands of adults and youth to gather in a single space and will likely cause an increase afterwards in the number of new infections which the country will witness.

ii. There was an agreement among Cabinet members to quicken the pace of the national waste clean-up, especially of drains, waterways and ponds. The drought which has plagued Antigua and Barbuda is likely to ease during the rainy season, in which case flooding of homes and properties and farms can be avoided if the waterways are not obstructed. The Met Office has indicated that this will be an active hurricane season and in preparation for such a season, the removal of rubbish of all sorts is necessary to prevent human suffering and property loss.

5. The Minister responsible for Immigration reported that a little more than 4000 immigrants made use of the amnesty that ran for four months, from March 1st to June 30th 2022. CARICOM nationals made up the largest number of applicants requiring the amnesty; nationals of more than 15 other states also made applications. Certificates are likely to be issued before the end of July, allowing the applicants to make provisions for either residency or citizenship.

6. Another firetruck was off loaded at the deepwater harbour today. This truck was donated by PLH, the company in Barbuda that is undertaking the largest investment project in the Caribbean. Three more trucks are scheduled to arrive in Antigua within six (6) months.

7. The case brought by two Barbudans against the Attorney General which made it all the way to the Privy Council was again briefly discussed, as was a plan to cause residents of Barbuda to benefit from the wealth being generated in Barbuda through a tourism project. The Cabinet will again meet to discuss this subject. The cost awarded by the Privy Council exceeds $120,000. It is to be paid to the government’s legal representatives by the two who brought the case.

8.i. The Cabinet held a discussion on the decision recently rendered by the High Court on three sections of the Sexual Offenses Act. The court in essence found that acts committed in the privacy of one’s home between consenting adults could not be criminalized. There are three (3) arms of government—the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive—that are all independent of each other, with the Judiciary having some supervisory authority over the other two. All are critical to the functioning of government and the Cabinet respects all branches.

ii. The Parliament is scheduled to reconvene on Monday, July 11th 2022. Several bills including the National Sex Offender Register bill 2022, will be introduced. 

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.