The Cabinet began its weekly meeting with a prayer that invoked God’s presence and then proceeded to hold discussions on the promises made during the election campaign, and to begin the process of fulfilling those promises that can immediately be implemented.
1. The Cabinet invited the Chief Immigration Officer and three other top officials of the Immigration Department to discuss two matters:
a). The mechanism to remove the requirement for work permits for nationals of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic. After a thorough and intense examination and exposition, the Cabinet agreed that the CARICOM Treaty requirements will continue, including the six-month entry allowance for visitors from the CARICOM States. Further discussions are to take place between lawyers within the Legal Department of the Ministry of Legal Affairs, and experts within the Immigration Department and the Ministry of Labour. The object is to ensure that all is done to make the process seamless, and to fulfil the promise.
b). The treatment to be meted out to the visitors from West Africa who arrived on charters from West Africa and those who remain in Antigua. The Cabinet examined the circumstances under which the Antigua Airways flights were conceived and originated. The passengers were to be well-off citizens of Nigeria and neighbouring countries who wished to travel to the Caribbean as tourists. (A well-established carrier known as Air Peace had made a request to commence a regular service between Nigeria and Antigua; the carrier chose to fly to Jamaica instead, since the ECCAA licence was taking a long time.) The Cabinet was informed that the visitors remaining in Antigua can be located in several small hotels and guest houses across the island. An offer to return them to their country is to be made, though many are likely to choose to stay, it was reported. Some arrangement may likely be made to ensure that their status is legal.
2. The Cabinet held a discussion on the expansion of the UWI-Five Islands campus utilizing the EC$216 million from the Saudi Fund. Millions of dollars are to be expended on enlarging the campus and making the University attractive to many OECS citizens. It was agreed that dormitories will be among the first buildings to be constructed so that students from throughout the region can find living space, and revenue will be realized from rentals. The University is expected to produce many graduates who specialize in I.T. and who can fill demands in Antigua and other places where their expertise can be applied.
3. The Minister of Works reported on many of the projects which the Works Department has begun to undertake, since the expanded portfolio was passed to her.
i. Work has already commenced on Lablahlie Road, including the completion of the sub-base. The Road was completely unusable by residents; over the past week, the PWD trucks have delivered the aggregates, the machines and the manpower required to bring the road to a passable state.
ii. Although the resurfacing of Anchorage Road has been halted temporarily, that is to enable APUA to plant new water-pipes to replace the 60 year-old cast iron pipes under the road. The resurfacing will recommence in two weeks or thereabouts. The Works Department will also fix secondary roads in every district, spending a period of time in each before moving on.
iii. The Ministry of Works will also immediately send a team to the Boys Training School to fix the kitchen and to improve several of the sleeping rooms that are in disrepair.
The Cabinet agreed that the Ministry of Works is off to a good start. Members applauded the collaboration between the Minister of Utilities and the Minister of Works.
4. The Minister of Public Utilities provided a detailed review of the water supply challenge that is actively being addressed.
i. The Fort James Plant is moving to produce an additional 500,000 gallons or a total of 1 million gallons daily.
ii. The Minister acknowledged that homes on higher elevations are likely to continue to experience difficulties at times, until several pumps and pressure stations are added at different locations. The pump in Liberta will be placed in the vicinity of the Church of Christ to facilitate the supply of water to the elevated areas of Evergreen Tree Road, Mount William and the surrounding community. Another pump will be located in Falmouth to the benefit of the residents in the Falmouth, Patterson’s, and the Horsford’s Hill areas.
The Cabinet voted to provide the Public Utilities with $100,000 to purchase some needed supplies, especially pipes.