The Cabinet began its weekly session with prayers from a priest. The meeting was chaired by the Acting Prime Minister since the elected Chairman and two other ministers have left Antigua for the United Nations General Assembly, and the many meetings which will take place there.
The Ministers will attend and speak on a variety of subjects including tackling NCDs (Non-Communicable Diseases), planning for the next Conference of the Parties (COP 28) in Dubai, and seeking wider acceptance of ‘Loss and Damage’ to Small Island States caused by Global Climate change.
i. A discussion followed, focused upon the insufficiency of potable water and the promise made by the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, on the day preceding, about de-politicizing the issue. He indicated a willingness to join in a non-partisan effort to find solutions to water production, water distribution, and the re-piping of nearly 37 miles of pipes which may be required if the APUA is to bill for a higher percentage of the water distributed. The promise followed an incident in the Parliament during the Monday session. When the Minister of Public Utilities was very close to ending his 15-minute statement on water, under the item called ‘Statement By Ministers’ on the agenda, the Leader of the Opposition insisted that the Minister’s 15-minute allotment had been consumed; he would not allow even two minutes’ extension. The Cabinet therefore asked the Minister to structure the planned experts’ non-partisan meeting that would include, by invitation, the Leader of the Opposition.
The Minister of Public Utilities took time out to re-emphasize the challenges which the APUA Water and Electricity Divisions are facing as the economy grows; more homes and office buildings are constructed, and more cruise vessels enter our Port. The 7.5 million gallons of water which the APUA produces daily is insufficient to meet demand by homes, schools, businesses, government offices, and the many institutions that need significant and growing quantities of the precious substance. Because of the continuing drought, the 40%/60% ratio of R/O water to stored surface and ground water supplies is no longer possible. All potable water now comes from R/O plants. The construction of many more plants and more storage tanks (called ‘reservoirs’) is now necessary, since demand is expanding and supply must grow to meet the growth in the economy which triggers higher water demand.
The Cabinet held discussions on improving the state of the city of St. John’s; much has been done in other Caribbean countries—that rely upon tourism and tourists to visit their cities—to improve the aesthetics of their capital cities. The Cabinet contemplates holding consultations with property owners within the City to meet a standard that could be set by law. Amendments to existing legislation would likely require building owners to upgrade the same. The issue of the drains and gutters was also addressed. The Minister of Health, who was absent on this day, has already articulated a solution that involves small sewage plants attached to each building’s grey water system that would purify the run-off so that the flowing effluent that now spoils the air will be eliminated. The use of lime in the gutters despoils the ocean-shore environment, and the availability of potable water to flush the gutters daily is not a lasting solution.
The Cabinet agreed to issuance of commemorative postage stamps that would display images of the Antigua Island Girls (of one value), and another of the Space Girls that shows them afloat in space. The Cabinet will work along with the philatelic organization in Antigua that helps to determine how best to market stamps that are purchased in large numbers by stamp collectors.
i) The Cabinet applauded National Housing and CHAPA for their vigilance in providing new homes at a discounted rate, to citizens in need of housing, to new home owners in Bolans, on the morning of Wednesday 20thSeptember; and, at least five more will be turned over by Friday 22 September. Roadworks have commenced in that area as well.
National Housing continues to hand over homes at the Oliver’s Estate Development (behind LICS ltd.) and CHAPA will commence handing over homes in St. Phillips by the end of next month.
ii) The Minster of Works announced that a team from National Housing has begun preparing the perimeter and are mobilized to commence the fencing of the Tomlinson’s Cemetery; both the St. John’s Public and the Valley Church cemeteries are at full capacity. Every effort is being made to ensure a dignified burial of every deceased person in Antigua. In the recent legislation adopted by Parliament, funeral homes are being given the authority to bury cadavers after forty-nine days in storage.
iii) The Cabinet expressed its appreciation for the events put on by the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda in their 55th year of Police Week. The evidence shows that there was great support by the public who turned out in large numbers at all of the events.
iv) The Cabinet applauded the Minster of Sports for engineering the production of a slew of outstanding athletes in body-building, track and field, cricket and other sports that have brought Antigua and Barbuda great honor and fame.
Next Thursday evening, 28th of September, the Minister of Education, representative of St. John’s Rural South, will hold a Town Hall Meeting in Nut Grove to address issues related to rising crime in the area. The Police will also be present to share with community members the strategies that will be employed and the role which the community members can play to reduce crime.
The Independence Calendar has been approved and will shortly be ready for distribution, the Minister responsible for Festivals reported. It shows a packed week of activities that engages the entire nation in the celebration of the 42nd Anniversary of our country’s sovereignty.
Prime Minister will address the United Nations General Assembly on Friday afternoon, 22 September 2023, which will appear on ABS-TV live and on the UN website.