The weekly Cabinet meeting commenced at 10:30 am following prayers; one member was absent. The Cabinet held preliminary discussions on the Burna Boy concert to be held in December, 2022. Despite the presence of Government officials at the launch, there is no financial liability on the part of the Ministry of Tourism or the Ministry of Creative Industries. Since May 2022, the Ministry of Creative Industries has endorsed 147 such events, without providing financial support to any.
- The Cabinet invited the National Minimum Wage Commission upon the submission of its Report. The five members explained the theoretical underpinning and the economic methodologies utilized, in order to arrive at the two proposals submitted to the Cabinet. The Chairman pointed out that the current minimum wage stands at EC$8.20 per hour, assuming a 40-hour work-week (for a wage of $328.00 per week). The proposals from the Commission were to move to:
i. $8.90 per hour; and, ii. $10.00 per hour.
Following vigorous and lengthy debates in the Cabinet, a decision was taken to move the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour. That decision will be taken to the Parliament where it will be debated before becoming law.
- The Cabinet made a decision, in keeping with the policy of the Gaston Browne administration, to promote youthful professionals to leadership positions. Effective January 1st, 2023, Carl Christopher will become the Executive Chairman of the Free Trade Zone. Another young professional will replace Senator Eustace “Teco” Lake in the Senate of Antigua and Barbuda who retires on December 31s, 2022. Another youth will be placed as the Chairman of the ABICE Board of Directors. The Gaston Browne Administration has been committed to providing youthful leaders with opportunities since winning office in 2014. Senator Shenella Govia was appointed to the Senate at 22 years and has performed marvelously. Honourable Maria Browne was elected to the House of Representatives at 26 years; and, several other youthful professionals were appointed to leadership roles within the governance system.
- Effective January 1st, 2023, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda will have a new Financial Secretary in the person of Mrs. Rasona Davis-Crump. She is a competent and experienced female who will become the country’s first-ever woman to hold this position. The Cabinet thanked Mr. Whitfield Harris for his outstanding service to his country and to the Ministry of Finance.
- Negotiations are continuing among the Unions representing Public Servants with the expectation that there will be an agreement on the quantum of the increase which the negotiations will yield. The Cabinet is cognizant of the additional costs which an increase in wages, salaries and emoluments will have on Government’s revenue; therefore, the increase will be tempered by the additional cost for services and goods which the Government must also now absorb in an era when global inflation has plagued every country because of Covid-19 and the Russian/Ukrainian conflict. No decision has yet been made.
- The Cabinet continues to negotiate with the LIAT court-appointed receiver to settle the severance payments owed to the former LIAT workers who resided in, and are citizens of, Antigua and Barbuda. Every effort will be made to pay a lump sum that will represent a final payment to all former LIAT Staff resident in Antigua and Barbuda. Last Christmas, the Gaston Browne Administration deposited 2 million Eastern Caribbean Dollars with the receiver, guaranteeing 50% of the amount owed to former employees of LIAT who are residents and citizens of Antigua and Barbuda; a significant portion remains with the receiver. However, the Cabinet is of the view that a better response is likely this time around.
- The Potworks Dam, capable of holding 1,200 million gallons of water is still near-empty because of the long drought that may now be coming to an end. The APUA therefore relies 100% on its desalination water to reach homes, business and institutions in Antigua. While the R/O plants in Antigua produce more than 7 million gallons daily, and consumption at peak exceeds 8 million gallons, there are challenges in the distribution system because of old and broken pipes. The Cabinet continues to press APUA’s water manager to ensure that no community goes without water for any longer than two days.
- The technical team undertaking the registration of lands in Barbuda reported that their work went well on the first day. Utilizing the most modern technology available to surveyors, the team has set itself three days to complete the necessary first phase of the geographical mapping of Barbuda. When the work is completed, every piece of land in Barbuda that has been leased will be shown on a cadastral map. The residents of Codrington who prefer to proceed without a certificate of land will be allowed to continue on the land which they have occupied for generations; those who wish to have a certificate of ownership will be allowed so to do for the consideration of $1.00, payable to the Treasury. The Privy Council ruled several months ago that all land that is not privately owned in the state of Antigua and Barbuda is the property of the Crown.
- The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda congratulated the National Swim Team that returned—from an OECS meet—victorious. For the very first time, the Antigua Team won many gold medals and proved to be superior to all the other teams from the OECS. The Cabinet applauds the coaches, teachers and parents who invested in the success of the athletes.
- The Cabinet has again made arrangements for an Annual National Service of Thanksgiving to be held on the first Sunday of the New Year, or on January 1st, 2023.