The Cabinet commenced its work at about 10:30 am following prayers by a Methodist Minister. The members questioned the Minister on lies and guarding the Antigua and Barbuda people from outrageous untruths. The members also engaged in a discussion relating to the Parliamentary session on the Budget. The most egregious of the goings-on in the Parliament was centered on the attempt to nullify the election of the Representative of St. Phillip’s North, Sir Robin Yearwood, by declaring that he failed to sign a register.
1. The Cabinet invited three lawyers from the Legal Affairs Division to reflect on an amended law governing the Antigua Port Authority. The amendment will make clear the ability of the Government to sell by auction a vessel that appears sanctioned, or falls under the proceeds of Crime Act. The Alfa Nero has been in the waters of Antigua for more than a year and a half; it has received more than five hundred thousand ($500,000.00) dollars’ worth of fuel; and, the money to buy food for the crew (reduced from forty-one to five members), is projected to last no more than two weeks. A ten-day notice will appear in the local press and newspapers outside of the jurisdiction, such that everyone in the world will have notice of the Government’s intention to sell the vessel. An auction will follow. The Alfa Nero poses a threat to other vessels and to the harbour where it is moored.
2. The Principals of the Dulcina Hotel in Barbuda were invited to the Cabinet to address their need for additional land space now that the hotel has been moved further back from the high-water mark. The additional space will also be used for building infrastructure for the hotel such as a generator room, a reverse osmosis plant, a laundry and staff housing, a wind generating plant, a solar electricity plant and an electricity generating plant that will always be on standby. The Cabinet listened to the proposal put forward by the principals of the Dulcina Project and has given its tacit support to the request. The Dulcina Hotel was constructed in the 1960’s by Barbudans who lived in the diaspora and the leased property has been passed from one generation to another, with little construction taking place over these past five decades.
3. The Cabinet agreed that work will soon begin on the Chicken Abattoir, to assist the poultry farmers in butchering their chickens. Antigua and Barbuda has become self-sufficient in eggs but not in chicken meat. More than twenty million dollars are spent each year importing chicken meat from large producers in Brazil, the United States and elsewhere. It has long been an ambition of the food producers in Antigua to provide sufficient protein-rich food for domestic consumers. Chicken Meat is a favourite of the Antiguan and Barbudan household and every effort will be made to meet market demands, as far as possible.
4. The Sir Novelle Richards Academy will have a visit by the widow of an Italian philanthropist on Thursday 16th March. Her husband contributed four million Euros to the expansion of the School, at the request of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education. The widow has been invited to witness the work that has been undertaken with the funds provided.
5. The Cabinet received the report of a Committee organized to recommend the manner in which waiver of work permits for CARICOM and Dominican Republic Nationals are to be structured. An amendment to the existing law is required and so too will be the regulations governing the issuance of work permit. The draft legislation is to be submitted to a team in the Ministry of Legal Affairs and brought to Cabinet and then to the Parliament, within a matter of weeks. The promise to waive these work permit fees was made during the January 2023 General Elections Campaign and every effort is being made to fulfill that promise as soon as humanly possible.
6. The Minister of Health reported that representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) met with Officials from the Ministry of Health. The PAHO handed over a diagnostic machine which is used for Cancer Screening. The Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre will now be equipped with one more tool to assist patients with early detection.
7. The Cabinet was informed that several land owners whose properties front on beaches have been building fences and closing-out Antigua and Barbuda Nationals from the public beaches. The Development Control Authority Law requires that every beach in Antigua is to have a landward passage to enable access to the beach. Where fences have been erected, like in the times of V.C. Bird, instructions to destroy those fences have gone out.
8. An untruthful claim made by a new Parliamentarian on Tuesday, during his Budget presentation, was debunked by the Minister of Education, Sports and the Creative Industries. He reminded his Cabinet colleagues that Cricket West Indies has spent more than fourteen million dollars in the Antiguan and Barbudan economy since the end of Covid. While sportsmen and women have been receiving scholarships from Universities abroad since 1958, when Sir Lester Bird was granted a scholarship to the University of Michigan, a number of Antiguan and Barbudan athletes have annually received scores of football, basketball and other Sports Scholarships, supported by the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Program.
9. While the challenge of production and delivery of potable water continues to test the mettle of the Minister of Public Utilities, he has persuaded the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda to continue to spend resources that will end the water woes challenge faced by the state. The replacement of aged and broken pipes that leak when additional pressure is applied to move more water around, requires a disruption in traffic, commerce and water supply. The Gaston Browne administration continues to be very attentive to the needs of hotels, households, businesses and institutions that require a continuous flow of potable water, in order to achieve a high standard of performance. A plant producing 3.5 million gallons of water daily is to be installed in Bethesda; it will provide water to communities on that side of the island. It will take ten months to erect.
10. Job-creation continues to be a major priority of the Gaston Browne administration. As more hotels are built, more building projects constructed, and the service sector expands, it is anticipated that many new jobs in several sectors will be created. The object of the ABICE and the UWI Five Islands is to train as many youth as possible to prepare the youth to fill the vacancies and to engineer entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves.