The Cabinet commenced its meeting at about 10:30 am and concluded at 6:30 pm. The eight-hour meeting began with a prayer from a Moravian Minister who invoked God’s presence in the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda.
- At the time of meeting, the Cabinet held a discussion on the strike led by the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT). Later in the evening, the Cabinet was informed that the ABUT advised its teachers to return to the classroom on Thursday, 20 April, 2023. Classes for all students at all schools will reconvene immediately. The Cabinet congratulated the parties for showing great concern for the students, and for acting to end the impasse. Especial applause was heaped on the head of Minister Daryll Matthew and the officials from the Ministry of Education and the Treasury for quickly acting to avert further harm.
- The Cabinet held a discussion on legislation to be adopted that will affect the disposal of unclaimed cadavers. Several families have refused to accept the bodies of their family members leaving them in the freezers at the funeral homes. The Cabinet is therefore giving consideration to legislation providing public notice that will allow the government, after a notice period, to move forward with the burial of the unclaimed bodies.
- The Cabinet invited a former Major of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) to address members on reducing youth violence across the nation. The former soldier wrote a dissertation on the subject seventeen (17) years ago, in 2005; his proposal was essentially to create a voluntary National Service Corps comprised of youth. Troubled youth between the ages of 15 to 21 years, would become members of the National Youth Service and would be taught by ABDF personnel whose objective would be to help reform the young people. The Cabinet has asked that the Major re-formulate the thesis to match the evolving challenge faced by parents, teachers and schools. The office of the Attorney General would, in the meantime, draft legislation to match the objective.
- The Caribbean Union Bank (CUB) made an appearance before Cabinet to speak about the successes of the bank in the post Covid-19 period. The evidence indicates that the bank has begun to generate a profit, and that its balance sheet is healthy. It has applied new technologies to serve its customers. It has made improvements in Human Resources and it has strengthened its relationship with its correspondent bank. The Cabinet expressed commendations to the CUB, heartened to learn of its re-birth and growth. The Cabinet concluded that the CUB is on the right path; there is liquidity in its capital base, its processes are streamlined and it has attracted new customers.
- The Cabinet has agreed to make extraordinary payments to the Central Board of Health (CBH), to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and to the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) within the coming week in order to reduce its liability to contractors. The Minister responsible for all three entities made a plea to the Cabinet to reduce the debt, especially since many small businesses make up a significant portion of their debtors. Consequently, the payments are intended to reach those small truck owners and other operators who are critical in the delivery of services, and whose receipt of portions of outstanding amounts are essential to their continued operation.
- The Cabinet held a discussion on a further amendment to the Barbuda Land (Amendment) Act (2018). Members were persuaded by a paper emanating from the Ministry of Legal Affairs that the provision limiting the purchase of land in Barbuda to a category of citizens called “Barbudans” is unconstitutional. That portion of the 2018 law will be repealed and that portion of the law addressing the sale of land in Antigua and Barbuda will make reference to “Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda”.
- The Cabinet held discussions on the issue of water sustainability utilizing reverse osmosis plants. A severe drought exists which compels complete reliance on reverse osmosis water. The Minister responsible for Utilities was pleased to inform the Cabinet that a new plant, intended to expand water production, has arrived in Antigua and is to be installed at Fort James alongside the existing plant located in that same facility. A discussion was held about creating near-shore wells that could be 95 to 120 feet deep and sufficiently wide to allow for pipes to be placed in them to suck up brackish water for the reverse osmosis plant. In Barbuda, wells are utilized for securing water for the reverse osmosis plant; and at Pigeon Point wells are also utilized. However, the other reverse osmosis plants rely on water obtained directly from the sea; plants are then turned off during times when groundswell, high winds and rough seas cause the water to be filled with sand, shells, vegetation and other debris that are harmful to the membranes in the reverse osmosis plants. The wells will alleviate the challenge posed by the adverse conditions that cause potable water production to decline. Antigua consumes more than 11,000,000 gallons of potable water daily. Another reverse osmosis plant, to be placed near Bethesda, would bring production to the same level as demand. More than EC$120 million dollars have been expended on the purchase of reverse osmosis plants by the Gaston Browne administration.
- The Cabinet was informed by the Attorney General that the sale of the Alfa Nero superyacht is proceeding smoothly. Twenty bids were received and due diligence of the potential purchasers is continuing. The process ought to end in approximately 30 days.
The government kept saying that they’re building new water plants but no water storage facilities in the constituency or communities. I am sure these government ministers have travelled to development countries and saw water storage tanks high on pedestals, especially throughout states counties in America. Water storage facilities can be an emergency backup whenever there are maintenance being done on the plants equipments, and also sea-swells prevent the pumping of water from the sea.
Whilst the rest of the country struggles with irregular water supply in this “severe drought”, will the Honorable PM address the supply of Govt water to his farm, whilst the farmers in the area who cannot afford other means, struggle to keep their crops from burning.