HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 28 June 2023
The Cabinet began its sitting with a prayer and immediately thereafter moved to a discussion on the Alfa Nero Superyacht; it has been sold to the former Google Executive Schmidt for US$67.6 million. The purchaser has shown a willingness to dispatch the resources; however, because a judicial decision is pending, he was advised by the lawyer, Cabinet was told, to wait a day or two until the Court has decided.
1. The Cabinet has determined that its effort to establish an air bridge with West Africa is to be continuously pursued. The Gaston Browne administration has pursued relations with Air Peace, the largest Nigerian air carrier, to invest in LIAT 2020 Ltd. The Cabinet is of the view that the capital required to make the new LIAT worthy is not forthcoming from the former shareholders of LIAT 1974 Ltd. Hence, another investor is required and Air Peace has indicated its capabilities. That carrier will also seek to establish regular flights between West Africa and Antigua, utilizing LIAT for dispersing its transit passengers to other Caribbean Countries, and building up the capabilities of LIAT to fly outside of the region. For Carnival 2023, arrangements are being made to share Nigeria’s rich cultural tapestry with a group of cultural artistes from Nigeria, for a period of four days. They will all stay at one of Antigua’s luxury hotels and be returned to their homeland by Air Peace at the end of the Carnival festivities.
2. Cabinet invited a team of six officials to comprise the core of a Taskforce from the Ministries of the Environment and of Finance, to work together in coordinating projects that are funded by international agencies. It is anticipated that a sum larger than six million dollars, covering a three-year period, is likely to flow from other agreements relating to Global Climate Change. Consequently the Government agencies are required to increase efficiency and reporting in a very timely manner as the resources are released to the Government. The Taskforce will also include officials from the Ministry of Works, Public Utilities, the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Finance. It was agreed that new legislation will have to be enacted to improve the management of the projects and their implementation. The Cabinet believes that the UWI will also have a role to play in helping to train those officials whose work will be subject to audits and regular inspections.
3. The Cabinet held a zoom meeting with a Sheik Rafik of Saudi Arabia who is interested in providing seed money for a Caribbean Development Fund. Antigua and Barbuda is deepening its relations with Saudi Arabia and is likely to open an Embassy in Rhyiad, the Capital of Saudi Arabia, in order to maximize the flow of resources from this wealthy oil-producing state. It is expected that the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority will be a major functionary in extracting capital from the Development Fund. The Citizenship by Investment Programme should also benefit significantly from the presence of an Antiguan and Barbudan Embassy in Saudi Arabia. It is reported that several Caribbean countries that have CIP Programmes are already represented in Saudi Arabia.
4. The Cabinet invited Cricket West Indies (CWI) to address members on the updated Master Plan for the Coolidge Cricket Grounds. CWI is preparing to invest sixty to eighty million United States Dollars where the Sticky Wicket Restaurant now sits. CWI is preparing for a series of T-20 games in 2024 and wishes to ensure that the Coolidge Cricket Ground can become a high performance training venue. It will sport an indoor training facility, gyms, retail space and a Media Centre among other amenities. Arrangements are also being made to connect the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium to the Media Centre by having Antigua Pubic Utilities Authority (APUA) lay the necessary cables to connect the Cable and Wireless Headquarters in Clare Hall. APUA is making an assessment of the cost of laying cables to connect all three entities.
5. The Cabinet invited a Medical Doctor, a technician from Grow Antigua (a Medical Cannabis Firm), the Head of a Rastafarian Group and his Deputy to address the issue of Cannabis as a cancer-reversing treatment. The use of cannabis to cure cancer is experimental and is usually a last resort, after the doctors have declared that modern medicine can do no more. It was reported that many cancer patients used to travel to another Caribbean country to utilize this drug of last resort; the idea is to place Antigua and Barbuda in a position to attract many of those patients. The Cabinet has agreed to establish an International Cannabis Research Centre here in Antigua that will study the impact of Cannabis on reversing Cancer, and to document other kinds of alleged benefits which Cannabis might have on ailing bodies.
6. The Cabinet received a report on the condition of the worker from the Burma Quarry who was burnt on the job, several days ago. He is still recovering and will likely be hospitalized for a period of time. The Ministry of Works will assist in meeting his medical expenses. The Cabinet also received the assurances from the Ministry of Health that it will provide Emergency Medical Services onsite whenever blasts are planned in the future.
7. The Ministry of Health has called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct an examination of the Cancer Centre. The demand by the majority shareholder for nearly 40 million Eastern Caribbean Dollars for the purchase of the Cancer Centre has been rejected. The Government’s valuator has estimated its worth to be between six million to nine million EC dollars. That impasse has not yet been overcome.
8. Two more days remain for the completion of the Government’s vehicle audit. Those employees who are driving Government-owned vehicles and have not taken them to the vehicle inspection station are advised to do so over the next two days.
9. July 4 2023, CARICOM Day, will be a National Holiday to mark the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. The Cabinet notes that the decision is intended to allow for reflection and examination, for assessment and for future guidance. The holiday is solely in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of CARICOM and is not to be an annual holiday.