The Cabinet commenced its meeting at about 11:00 am and concluded at 3:30pm; one member joined by virtual means.
1. Cabinet decided to offer an Official Funeral to Victor “Babu” Samuel, the highly regarded national pannist who died yesterday, June 28, 2022; he was 64 years old. Arrangements for his burial will involve several agencies of government, his family and the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force. The team will select a date for the funeral.
2. The Cabinet held discussions on the rising prices of fuel and food, occasioned by the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the continuing conflict that the experts agree will not end immediately. The impact on commodity prices will continue to be felt for the near future, experts have concluded. The price increases of food and fuel will not significantly recede until Russian exports of oil products, and Ukrainian wheat exports, are back on the world market.
ii. The Cabinet reflected on the death of Mr. Leonado Del Vecchio, the Italian billionaire who provided four (4) Million dollars XCD for the Science Wing at the Sir Novelle Richards Academy. The Cabinet repeated its condolences to his wife and family and expressed their hope that the family will continue to consider Antigua and Barbuda as home. The deceased owned a home at Jumby Bay and was in love with the people, culture and beauty of Antigua and Barbuda.
iii. In reviewing the amounts spent on improving accessibility to tertiary educational institutions since the 2014 elections, the Cabinet determined that more than $50 million dollars have been spent, beyond the amounts budgeted. $17 million dollars were spent on bringing The UWI to Five Islands, and the Prime Minister Scholarship distributes $21 million dollars annually. Other amounts have been spent by the Board of Education on the expansion and upgrades of the Antigua State College and the ABHTI plants as well as the provision of text books, scholarships and school equipment. A college graduate in every home is the object.
iv. The Cabinet reviewed the ownership of homes that has increased significantly since it became the government eight years ago, certain that while government agencies have built more than 1000 homes, private contractors have been very busy building homes, buildings and other projects all across Antigua and Barbuda. The nation is experiencing a construction boom, causing building supplies to be scarce and the demand for cement and sand to exceed the amount continuously imported.
3. The Cabinet invited the following two institutions to appear before it:
i. The National Office of Disaster Services (NODS), led by its new Director, made a detailed report of the readiness of each community as a result of the commencement of the hurricane season. Relying upon the World Meteorological Organization and the National Met Office, the conclusion was reached that the 2022 hurricane season will be very busy. Consequently NODS reported on the readiness of each community in the event of heavy rainfall and strong winds. Working with several partners NODS has negotiated for cyclone insurance and the provision of emergency kits. While storage at NODS Headquarters is adequate, an attempt to pre-position kits at several shelters has not worked well. There are 64 shelters including a church in Codrington, Barbuda. Several churches that are intended to be used for shelters have bathrooms separated from the sanctuaries; it makes them less safe because use of the shelters’ restrooms would make it unsafe if one has to journey outside during a storm. The NODS also reported that illegal dumping of rubbish is still ongoing, clogging waterways, drains and ponds. A comprehensive report on each of the districts’ drains and bridges that have been examined will be reported to Cabinet. Asked about their readiness to respond quickly, the NODS Director responded that the NODS is in a position to adequately respond to any disaster which may now occur.
3.ii. The Cabinet invited the APUA to its meeting, to include the General Manager and the two supervisors who are responsible for managing the 52 valves that determine where and for how long water flows. Cabinet determined, with the advice and agreement of the APUA General Manager, to increase the number of persons on each shift responsible for water valves from two persons to eight. Shift employees will be sourced internally from APUA.
4.i. Despite potable water production that has increased by more than 6.2 million gallons per day, the demand for water has continued to increase because of the long drought. Several plants have been upgraded by changing membranes and filters and by increasing the amount of potable water available. Until such time as rain showers provide surface-water relief, APUA will have to produce more potable water. More storage tanks have been received, six (6) from Venezuela, and two that are not connected will be commissioned shortly.
4.ii. The Minister of Tourism reported that six (6) hotels requested permission to place Reverse Osmosis plants on their properties. Hotels consume significant quantities of potable water. Cabinet has given permission for these hotels to construct their own R/O plants. Hotels have long had standby electricity plants on their properties; several hope to have non-renewable energy sources to substitute for fossil fuel.
5.i. The Parliamentary Representative of St. Paul’s reported that rehabilitation work at Cobbs Cross Clinic has commenced. The people of St. Paul’s would be very pleased to have their clinic up and going in a very short while.
ii. The Minister of Lands confirmed that 96 parcels of land at Table Hill Gordon in St. Paul’s have been surveyed and given parcel numbers. The parcelized crown lands will be sold in due course to Antiguans and Barbudans.
6. The Minister of Tourism reported that over 500 jobs will be made available to Antiguans and Barbudans as a result of a collaboration between the Government of Antiguan and Barbuda and Royal Caribbean Cruise Group RCG. From July 4th to 7th there will be a recruitment drive, to be held at the Multi-Purpose and Cultural Exhibition Center at Perry Bay, from 9 am- 4 pm daily. Appointments will be required in order to be interviewed and an email is being circulated.