The Cabinet commenced its meeting with prayers from a Minister of religion. He prayed for the success of the Cabinet meeting. The question was asked about moral inquiry into private investment by those who serve in the executive. Disclosure, he said, was one sure way to avoid condemnation, although false accusations by political operatives might still be made. There is every right to believe that the truth will always prevail.
1. The Cabinet invited the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to Kuwait to give an update on the progress made in strengthening relations between the two states. He addressed the issue of the loan from the Kuwaiti Fund for Development to Antigua and Barbuda, and is trying to seek forgiveness of that debt. He reported seeking to negotiate grant funding annually from the government of Kuwait; several countries in the region have succeeded in securing grants therefrom. In addition, he has succeeded in promoting the Citizenship by Investment Programme to wealthy foreigners who were born in Kuwait but are not allowed Kuwaiti citizenship.
2. The Chief Extension Officer was invited to Cabinet to report on the progress being made by the Chinese training programme for farmers, whereby they have been taught to grow new kinds of vegetables. Each Cabinet member was provided with samples of the freshly-grown produce, such as broccoli and kale, from the farms which the Antiguan farmers have been trained to grow the produce. Cabinet expressed its thanks to the Chinese team for its contribution to diversifying the produce of the agricultural sector.
3. The Cabinet welcomed a group investors from the US Virgin Islands who expressed a continuing interest in rehabilitating the Cassada Gardens Horse Racing Track, and to pay for the upgrade by establishing a casino. The group indicated that 15% of the gross revenues would be transferred to the Antigua Turf Club as a partner, since the race track is operated by the Antigua Turf Club. The group estimated that revenues from gaming would amount to over $30 million EC over the next two years; and, as many as 60 employees would earn an income from the casino and race track operation.
4. The Cabinet discussed briefly the operation of LIAT (2020) Ltd. and the acquisition of an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by the acquisition of at least one aircraft in the first instance from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). The negotiations continue and the Government three additional aircraft over the next sixty days.
5. The Government is willing to give consideration to three Canadian investors of Antiguan descent to build and operate a crematorium, as a substitute to burials. The Cabinet is studying the written submission of the investors’ proposal. The establishment of crematoriums as a substitute to burials is subject to an amendment to the law that provides for the disposal of deceased persons. The legislation will go before Parliament shortly.
6. The Government has taken a decision to turn the shuttered Bethesda Primary School into a Technical and Vocational School–essentially an extension of the ABICE–whose focus will be agricultural science and related subjects. The student population of the pre-existing Primary School had decreased to fewer students than teachers and administrators, thereby failing to achieve the critical mass that would justify its continuation; its students were transferred to the Newfield Public Primary School, and a new purpose was articulated for the use of the buildings.
7. The United States Embassy in Barbados has announced—as part of the package of assistance towards the successful hosting by Antigua of the Fourth International SIDS Conference, May 27th-30th—that the Government of the USA will provide specialized training to security personnel who will be assigned to Heads of State and Government attending the Conference. The training will take place in Barbados; the selected security personnel would be determined by their various heads.
8. The Cabinet approved a request by the Film Commission to increase the attractiveness of Antigua and Barbuda as a venue for movie–making. The government has agreed to allow movie makers free access to all historical sites in Antigua and Barbuda, and to assist in securing licenses for drones and helicopters undertaking aerial filming. Other destinations in the Caribbean are seeking to attract film-making and offer even more generous terms than Antigua and Barbuda.
9. It has been agreed to convene Parliament next week. Official notifications will be sent to all elected parliamentarians in the next 24 hours.