HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Cabinet met both face-to-face and virtually, all members participating. The practice of inviting experts to Cabinet continues.

1. The Cabinet invited a medical doctor who is playing a role in establishing a Stem Cell Center, to provide the new scientific treatment to prospective clients. The issue of the taxes and registration fees to be charged the Center and the patients was the basis of the Cabinet’s discussion. The doctor was persuaded that as a “pioneer industry”, there ought to be no taxes levied against the Center or the treatment for which the patient pays.  Members of Cabinet were of the view that there ought to be a registration fee for each of the Centers, and an ABST tax for the treatment administered. The Stem Cell “industry” is very lucrative, the Cabinet members remarked; therefore, whatever risks are associated with its operation, the Treasury ought to receive sufficient resources that would not result in subsidizing the “industry.” At the end of a very intensive debate, it was agreed that fees for the Centers will be reduced, and ABST will attach to each treatment. The Cabinet will also appoint an official to oversee the operation of Stem Cell Centers and doctors involved in the new treatment, in Antigua and Barbuda.

2. The Cabinet was provided an assessment of the Covid-19 situation by the Minister of Health. He asserted that the protocols and other provisions mandated by Cabinet have worked very well. The vaccinations of approximately 35,000 adults in Antigua and Barbuda have been a major factor in keeping the disease at very low rates. The latest dashboard showed that there were zero new cases, zero persons hospitalized for Covid, and only 3 active cases of Covid-19 in the nation at this time. The decision by the United States CDC to place the country in Category 1 status, evidences the success of the policies of the Cabinet. The British would also have been informed, such that Antigua and Barbuda can be considered for moving from Amber to Green, in its evaluation of states. These assessments are very helpful to the recovery of tourism, the Minister noted. More residents and nationals must still be vaccinated; 5,000 additional residents are to be vaccinated before 30 June 2021 when that many vials of the AstraZenica in storage will expire. The inducements to vaccinate include the raffle of a parcel of land at Judges Hill, valued at more than EC$68,000. All those who present themselves for first or second dose vaccinations are eligible for the raffle. Non-nationals who are out-of- time, and who present themselves for vaccination will receive an extension of four months; the Cabinet has made arrangements with the Immigration Department to eliminate several requirements: i. the purchase of a return ticket; ii. Presentation of a Police Report; and iii. full payment of arrears (a payment plan is to be applied).  

3. The Chairman of Cabinet noted that the President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will hold face-to-face discussions on Friday, June 11, 2021, on a series of important matters including a $50 million dollar loan which Antigua and Barbuda hopes to receive in the struggle against Covid-19. The CDB has also been a pivotal partner in the financing of LIAT over the years, and is owed significant sums by the four state-owners of the regional airline. Other issues are to be raised by the Chairman.

4. The Cabinet held a brief discussion on the Choksi matter, on the investigation into his claim of abduction, and the decisions rendered thus far by the Magistrate and the High Court of Dominica. No new information has emanated from the Dominica authorities that now hold Mr. Choksi’s fate in their hands. The authorities in Antigua continue their investigation of Choksi’s claim that he was abducted in Antigua. Since abductions and kidnappings are not crimes usually reported in Antigua, no effort is being spared to uncover all the facts in this supposed abduction.

5.i. The Cabinet took a decision, acting under The Antigua and Barbuda Constitution Order 1981, to establish an Election Boundaries Commission consisting of four commissioners, three of whom are to be named by the Government and one by the Opposition. The Government’s three Commissioners include: Hilroy Humphreys (Chairman), Garfield Christopher (Member), and Ivor Ford (Member). The Opposition is invited to nominate one member. 

5.ii. The Cabinet has also instructed the Supervisor of Elections to make the arrangements to purchase ballot paper, to acquire all other supplies necessary to conduct free and fair elections, and to ensure that all human and material resources required to hold flawless elections are available to the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission in quick order.

6. The Minister of Legal Affairs reported that the Law Library, currently located in the High Court Building, will be removed from its current location to an unused space on Nevis Street. The space at the Courthouse will be turned into two courtrooms, both are likely to be used as family courts. The Minister of Works has given the assurance that the new courtrooms will be ready for occupation by the end of June 2021. The Minister of Works has also given the assurance that repairs on the Magistrate’s Court on High and Temple Streets will begin in a few weeks.

7. The official funeral for former Senator Llewellyn Smith will take place next Tuesday, 15 June 2021, at the Ebenezer Methodist Church on St. Mary’s Street beginning at 10:00 am. He will be buried at Freeman’s Ville Methodist churchyard.

8. Member of St. John’s City East Constituency will take the Prime Minister on a walking tour of the Constituency on Thursday afternoon, June 10, 2021, along the roadways in the Constituency that reveal the works which are taking place to fix the gutters, drains, and road surfaces that are being rebuilt. The repairs were long promised by a previous representative of the Constituency, during a ten-year period. Nothing was done. The current Member will show the Head of Government the progress made, even in these Covid-19 times. 

9. Parliament will next convene on Thursday, 17 June 2021, at 9:30 in the morning. A number of amendments to existing laws will be debated, and second and third readings will follow.

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