All members of Cabinet were present. Cabinet commenced at 10:30am
1. The Cabinet invited two groups to address its members this morning.
i. The Principals of Elite Resorts were asked to address its management of a refurbished Jolly Beach Hotel. The object is to have several rooms rehabilitated for the winter season 2022 and to have the Elite Resorts manage the facility for up to 5 years. The management company will also market the Jolly Beach Hotel and share the profits with the government of Antigua and Barbuda. The government will move to secure ownership of the hotel. One of the outcomes will be the staff are assured that when the sale of the hotel is consummated, the staff members who had been severed will be paid from the proceeds of the sale. Jolly Beach is valued at more than $30 million dollars.
ii. The former Solicitor General and a member of the Ministry of Legal Affairs addressed the Cabinet on the lease of the Halcyon Hotel. The Sunwing Group, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, and Antigua Isle Ltd., (a wholly owned government company) entered into an agreement for a 99-year lease of the property from the Government. The new hotel is to be called the Royalton Chic. A number of luxury homes are to be built on the hills surrounding the hotel. These holiday homes will be built at a cost of USD $200,000 per home. They will be offered to CIP applicants as real estate investment options.
2. The junior Minister of Finance reported on the IMF Article IV visit to Antigua and Barbuda. The IMF forecast 6% economic growth in 2022, following a 5% growth in 2021. Despite the Covid-19 Pandemic and the harm caused to all economies globally, the IMF team found the performance to be outstanding. The IMF visiting team addressed the issue of banking and the services offered by these financial institutions. There was a discussion by the banks and noted that their profits emanated from fees charged and not from interest income. The IMF will publish its final report in 10 or more days.
3. The Cabinet considered the on-going effect on residents and citizens as a consequence of Covid-19. Many households are still struggling to address the financial impact of the pandemic.
i. It is agreed that those APUA residential customers owing for electricity and water, who are in arrears before and up to December 31st 2021, will have their debts to APUA forgiven. Customers who pay the current month’s obligation, benefiting from this amnesty, will be reconnected by November 1st 2022.
ii. Unpaid property taxes up to December 31st 2021 will also benefit from an amnesty program, provided they pay the current year’s tax.
iii. Residents and citizens with outstanding hospital bills, owed to the Sir Lester Bird Medical Center, and in arrears for more than 180 days, will have their balance forgiven also, under the amnesty program rolled out by the Cabinet.
4. The Cabinet was informed by the Minister of Education that there will be increased patrols by the Police and the Defence Force of government schools, and there will also be postings at the most vulnerable schools at critical times. There is also an agreement to increase the lighting and cameras on school compounds as deterrents to the vandalism and criminal trespass that have been occurring. The specs for cameras will be managed by the Ministry responsible for Information and Technology, and the creation of a command center, where the cameras can be monitored, will also be established. The Cabinet also expresses gratitude to teachers who play an integral role in the shaping of future generations and wishes them a productive Teachers’ Week.
5.i. The Minister of Health indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly been on the decline but cautions the vulnerable to continue to practice good hand hygiene and other measures. Those who have not yet been vaccinated are still encouraged to do so.
ii. The National Bulk Waste Removal has come to an end. The teams are returning to their various communities; highways and frequently travelled roads will be tackled first, on account of the rains which have spurred the growth of unwanted vegetation and made some places appear untidy.
iii. The Health Ministry will begin to screen for rheumatic fever, the Minister of Health reported. He also reported that an epidemiological unit is to be built by the Ministry of Works; the center will improve upon that which now exists. The new renal and dialysis center at the old Edward Ward site at the old Holberton Hospital is currently under construction and meeting deadlines. Upon completion, the renal unit at the SLBMC will be converted into a Cardiology and Heart Health Unit, in collaboration with a world-renowned medical center from the United States.
6. The All Saints Police Station, having undergone major improvements, is shortly to reopen, the Attorney General advised. The temporary station at Clarke’s Hill will continue to serve the communities of Freemans Village, Sea View Farm, Cashew Hill, Bathlodge, and surrounding communities. The Police were congratulated for patrolling on bicycles since their presence seemingly act as a deterrent to petty theft.
7. Several Government Ministers will attend the opening of a new Call Center on Thursday afternoon, October 6, 2022. The new enterprise is located upstairs in the building where the old Home and Office Depot was located.