The Cabinet meeting commenced at 11:00 am, following bilateral consultations between the Prime Minister and delegations from the United States, Canada, and the Foreign Minister of Nigeria who arrived on the Antigua Airways flight which landed on Independence Day.
1. The Cabinet invited the General Manager of APUA, the Water Manager, and two other APUA Supervisors, who manage the distribution of 7 million gallons of potable reverse osmosis water daily, to report. Communities complain that water is sometimes denied them for several days at a time, when the APUA indicates that no community should go without piped water for no longer than two days. The APUA has pledged to put systems in place that would more closely monitor the communities which are supplied or deprived of water. Several men and women were employed and trained to open and close the valves which supply or divert water to and from different communities. Those APUA employees are required to share their daily findings by written submission of a daily report. There were clearly differences between what was reported to the APUA Management and what was reported to the Parliamentary Representatives.
2. The Cabinet express its satisfaction with the independence events leading up to and including the Military Parade and Awards Ceremonies. Judging by the support for the independence celebrations, the Cabinet concluded that there is a clear indication of strong economic recovery in the post COVID period. The annual Independence Food Fair and the cricket match attracted thousands, attesting to the strong economic recovery. It is estimated that the economy will expand by more than 7% in 2022 and continue to create hundreds of new jobs each week. The Cabinet also noted strong participation at the several Independence calendar events to include the Youth Rally, the Church Service, National Flag Day, Youth Panorama and National Dress Day, displaying a high sense of patriotism and support for the government.
3. i. The Prime Minister Reported meeting with several Nigerian officials who arrived on Antigua Airways flight on Independence Day. More than 100 passengers arrived Antigua from Nigeria and are spending six days in Antigua on holiday. The scheduling of flights will take place as soon as a number of certificates are issued to the airline. Despite the naysayers, the Antigua Airways flight is considered a success.
ii. The selected managers (The Elite Group) for the Jolly Beach Hotel have already begun the refurbishment of 100 rooms and will have others ready for occupation by mid- or late December 2022. The other rooms will continue to be refurbished until the hotel property can receive as many as 400 guests. In the meantime, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has set aside as much as $5 million dollars to pay severance and other debt to former Jolly Beach staff.
iii. On the January 28th 2023, the European Carnival Cruise Vessel carrying 5,000 passenger and 1,500 crew will homeport at the 5th pier. It will depart when air arriving passengers land in Antigua and board the cruise. The dredging of the Port to accommodate the Oasis Class ships is still underway by the Blue Ocean Dredging Company in which the Antigua government owns 40% shares.
iv. The Minister of Education reported that work on the expanded ABICE commenced on the same day as the ground breaking ceremony took place. The local contractor is working 16 hours per day to complete the modern facility at a fixed price. The object is to increase access to continuing vocational and technical training by the very young for certification and marketability. Sir David Harrison, a British philanthropist, contributed £4 million pounds Sterling towards the ABICE modernization and expansion.
4. The Barbuda Land Registry is moving forward with help from the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force winged section, whose aircraft will transport the experts over to Barbuda. Several vehicles will also be transported to Barbuda by barge for purposes of this exercise. Barbuda will have a Land Registry, such as Antigua has always had, indicating who owns or occupies lawfully which land.
5. The Prime Minister boarded an aircraft today, Wednesday, November 2, 2022, that would take him to the gathering of world leaders for COP27 (Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change), in Egypt. As the Chairperson of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) of the United Nations, he will speak and advocate on behalf of the 39 countries that form the international alliance. The Prime Minister has also been invited to another conference to address the issue of Climate Change and to offer his perspective on the impact of the war in Ukraine on the increase of fuel and food prices, globally. He has been asked to present evidence-based policy proposals to address these issues.
6. The Cabinet decided to offer an official funeral to Ambassador Josette Michael, the late mother of Parliamentarian Asot Michael, who died on Independence Day.
7. The Christmas Barrel Initiative started today, Wednesday November 2nd and will end in January 2023. Thousands of families will likely make use of the waiver of taxes.
8. The Parliament will reconvene in three weeks which will likely be the very last sitting for the year 2022. Hence a number of bills that have had their 1st reading will likely have the 2nd and 3rd reading during the sitting, so that there aren’t any lingering issues for 2023 before new elections to parliament.