The Cabinet commenced its meeting at 10:45 am with prayers from a Catholic priest. The meeting ended at 3:00 pm. The Honourable Steadroy Benjamin, the Attorney General, chaired in the absence of the Prime Minister who is currently at the United Nations leading a Special Session that is dedicated to fine-tuning the Multilateral Vulnerability Index (MVI). That MVI would make possible the access of small island-states to concessional financing. At the moment, many small island-developing states (SIDS) are judged to have high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita and are therefore not eligible for concessional financing. All steps are being taken to remedying the unfortunate policy.
- The Cabinet invited the principals of the Jolly Beach Management Team to share a proposal that would result in a portion of the Jolly Beach Hotel being prepared to meet the requirements of an Italian charter company named Alpitor. About 80 rooms would be specially prepared for those arriving on charters, between December 15th, 2023, to September 15th, 2024,—a nine- month period when the visitors would occupy the rooms that had been specially prepared. The rooms will be brought up to four-star levels and would accommodate adults only. In order to ensure that any extra passengers Alpitour may bring, 20 additional rooms are to be prepared using their specifications. The total capital injection will be USD 1.8 million. The arrangement with Jolly Beach will be three to five years and the Government, the owner of Jolly Beach, will earn nearly two million dollars annually on all the taxes and the costs which Alpitour will have to pay during the nine-month period.
- The Cabinet sought and received, through the Ministry of Legal Affairs, two legal opinions by King Counsels (K.C.s) on the power of the Governor General in relation to establishing public enquiries. The experts concluded that the Governor General has no power to commission a public enquiry. The Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda decides on the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry and, by way of Resolution, the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda provides the authority to the Governor General and will also vote to authorize a special warrant to fund the Enquiry. The claim by political operatives that the Governor General has the authority to commission a Public Enquiry is absolutely false.
- i. The Attorney General reported that the Business Community has made it clear that its members are ready to provide support to the government’s crime-fighting efforts. The assertions followed a meeting with the Syrian and Lebanese Communities on Tuesday night. The community groups were attending a memorial service for a murdered Syrian businessman who was shot to death by a robber armed with an illegal gun. Further talks will follow to fine-tune the precise methodologies that will assist with the crime-fighting .
ii. The Cabinet is concerned by the manner in which illegal guns are being smuggled into Antigua and Barbuda. The Cabinet has advised law enforcement to increase their monitoring of the Airports and Sea Ports.
iii. The Cabinet expressed its appreciation to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda for their speedy work in apprehending two suspects in the recent murder. The Police also have two suspects in custody in connection with the Roti King robbery. In the case of the rape of the 46 year old woman, the Police have five suspects in custody; one is 13, two are 15 and two are 17 years old.
- The Minister of Education sought and received the permission of Cabinet to pursue ratification of an Education Sector Strategy 2023 to 2028. The first strategy was developed and adopted in 2015 and was a five-year policy document which outlined the vision and priority areas for improving the quality of Education in Antigua and Barbuda. The new strategy, outlined in a paper, will also last for five years from 2023-2028. Its object is to strengthen the quality of teaching and learning; enhance teachers’ professional development; improve curriculum and strategies for assessment; allow for increase access to quality early childhood services; provide additional opportunities for technical and vocational education; and, to increase provisions for access to tertiary education. The strategy is informed by policies reviewed locally, regionally and internationally. It represents a forward-thinking plan for improving Antigua and Barbuda’s Education System.
- The Cabinet received a proposal from the Minister of Tourism for the upgrading of the Hawksbill Hotel – a former Rex Resort, like the Halcyon Cove. Millions of dollars will be spent by the firm to complete renovations by October 2023 in time for the new tourist season 2023/2024. The number of hotel rooms must expand in order to accommodate the additional demand for rooms that Antigua and Barbuda is now experiencing. The Minister of Tourism has also indicated that the old Halcyon Hotel, which is being rebuilt and refurbished, will likely be ready to receive visitors by the end of the year.
- The Minister of National Housing reported that the fencing at Sir Novelle Richards Academy is completed. Pares Secondary School is the next school to be fenced. Both cost $80,000 EC each for material and labour; and, National Housing has advanced the resources to satisfy the demand of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers.
- The Lands Division announces that overdue payments for lands that have long been assigned are about to be reassigned to other citizens who have applied and are desirous of owning a piece of the rock. The re assignment of lands will likely take place by June 1st, unless those in arrears make the outstanding payments.
- The Cabinet congratulated Ambassador Melissa Seaforth for winning the Bikini Fitness category at the Mr. Universe Prague Elite Pro Show last weekend in the Czech Republic. Mr. Kenroy Christian was adjudged second place in the men’s physique Elite Pro Category at the same show. He too was congratulated by the Cabinet.
- The Upper House of Parliament, the Antigua and Barbuda Senate, will meet at 9:30 am Thursday, 25 May 2023, to debate and adopt bills and a resolution.