The Cabinet invited several guests to address its Members today, each making a significant contribution to an understanding of the operation of government.
i. Water Works– The two principals of the firm who have played a significant role in the acquisition of the Reverse Osmosis Plants for the APUA were invited to share with the Cabinet the delivery dates of the newest plants. The principals confirmed that the replacement parts for several of the APUA R/O plants will arrive in Antigua before 31st May. Those parts will be applied to existing plants whose efficiency has declined over time; and, the replacement of the new parts will cause the plants to produce more potable water, daily. The Fort James Plant will arrive in a few weeks and it will take approximately six (6) weeks to be installed and to become operational. It is expected to produce 500,000 gallons of potable water daily, and subsequently its output will increase to 1 million gallons daily. The arrival of the Bethesda 3-million-gallons-a-day plant will arrive in Antigua as early as July and commissioning should be complete by the end of the year. Drought conditions have made the challenge of providing potable water more difficult, the Cabinet agreed, and the experts asserted.
ii. An APUA Team, consisting of the General Manager and three technicians, were invited to Cabinet to address the needs of Cricket West Indies in establishing a media center at their Coolidge headquarters. The infrastructure to enable a media center to function from Antigua requires fiber cables to the two international cricket venues recognized by the ICC; games played in other countries will be beamed to Antigua and edited, produced and distributed by the Antigua Media Center. The dark fiber requirement will all be financed by Cricket West Indies and APUA will enjoy revenue from the connection; and, Cricket West Indies will also earn significant income from the broadcasting rights that it will sell. Cricket will become an export product from Antigua when this media center is established and working.
2. The Cabinet held a discussion about the Summit of The Americas meeting which is scheduled to take place shortly in Los Angeles, which the American President will host. The USA has indicated that it will not be inviting three Presidents from one Caribbean and two Latin American states; namely, the President of Cuba, the President of Venezuela and the President of Nicaragua. Several heads of state and of government have indicated that they will not attend if that policy is pursued. In fact, the CARICOM had also agreed that heads will not attend if Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were not invited to the summit. However, several members of CARICOM are resiling from that position. Prime Minister Gaston Browne, however, having announced that Antigua and Barbuda’s head will not be participating under those conditions, has remained committed to the initial position. The Americans are also inviting Juan Guaido, their choice, to lead a Venezuelan delegation.
3. Two hotels that are in a state of disrepair were also on the agenda for Cabinet’s examination and decision-making.
i. The Halcyon Hotel owned by the Government but leased to an Indian group is to be sold to another hotel operator. Consequently, the Government is in negotiation with the lessee to make good on any debt owed to the government and to make a set-off of the amounts which will eventually accrue between the lessee and the lessor (Government of Antigua and Barbuda).
ii. Jolly Beach– The amounts owed to the government of Antigua and Barbuda, including to APUA, exceeds the value of the hotel. However, the government has recently learned that a charge against the property of the hotel was unlawfully agreed-to in the amount of $15million USD many years ago. The Cabinet estimates that it will take approximately two years before this controversy is determined by the courts. Consequently, it will proceed with refurbishing several hundred rooms of the Jolly Beach by a temporary lease to an hotelier.
4. The National Asset Management Company (NAMCO) has had its financial statements audited. The audited statements are to be laid on the table during the next session of Parliament. The Prime Minister will be absent from the state, hence delaying the sitting of Parliament for a few weeks. Upon his return, the Parliament is likely to convene shortly thereafter and the statements made public.
5. Two student athletes from the Princes Margaret Secondary School, along with their Principal and Deputy Principal paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister during Cabinet session. The student athletes were extremely successful in pushing the PMS above other secondary schools during the recently-held Inter-schools Sporting Championships where PMS dominated both the male and female track and field heats. The Prime Minister, as he has done many times before, expressed his wishes for even greater success in the future and encouraged the athletes to continue to perform outstandingly in their academic pursuits as well. The Prime Minister, as an alumnus of PMS, was presented with a t-shirt emblazoned with the tagline, “Home of the Champions.” One of the two student athletes was also a medalist at the CARIFITA games held earlier last month. The Minister of Education and Sports was also presented with the championship shirt. Ms. Angelica O’Donoghue, the Communications Officer in the Prime Minister’s Office, also an alumnus of the PMS, was presented with one of the highly-prized shirts. The students and the accompanying principal and deputy principal expressed their absolute joy at her elevation.