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HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 29 November 2023
The Cabinet began its sitting with a prayer; the meeting was chaired by the Acting Prime Minister who substituted for the Prime Minister. The Head of Government has departed Antigua for Dubai, where the 28h Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) takes place. The PM returns on Tuesday, 5 December, 2023.
- The Cabinet held a discussion on a pending issue that is before the Industrial Court. It pertains to duty allowance, working on national holidays, earning overtime, and meeting the financial obligations of the State. There was a vigorous discussion among the Cabinet members that involved both legal and ethical reasoning, and the role of the Courts.
- The Minister of Legal Affairs, the Attorney General, gave Cabinet the assurance that construction of a building to house the Forensic Department of the Royal Police Force is moving forward. A team of Chinese experts will arrive Antigua before Christmas 2023; they will complete the first steps in the building process now that the land has been assigned. The forensics that are currently undertaken overseas cost a significant amount, and take a very long time for results to be returned. Hence, completing of the important work in solving crimes and carrying out DNA investigations will be undertaken in Antigua, beginning sometime next year 2024.
- The Minister of Tourism reported that all the marinas across Antigua are full to the brim. Superyachts are in plentiful supply and are purchasing the goods and services which the marinas sell. The Parliamentary Representative for St. Paul’s cautioned that water supply though not now a challenge for vessels, may be problematic in the dry months ahead. Tropical Storm Phillipe and Hurricane Tammy brought significant rainfall that inundated Potworks Dam and other water catchment systems; APUA Water Division is now capable of producing more than seven-and-a -half million gallons of reverse osmosis water daily, and four million gallons of potable water from dams and reservoirs. The Minister of Public Utilities gave Cabinet the assurance that more reverse osmosis plants will be added in the coming months and that the stored water supplies are likely to last until Easter. Additionally, the Minister advised that the plant at Pigeon Point can also be tasked to provide sufficient water to the vessels moored in Falmouth Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard. There are 7 reverse osmosis plants in Antigua and 1 in Barbuda; there are two fresh water treatment plants in Antigua that prepare potable water from stored sources. The administration has spent over $100 million to purchase reverse osmosis plants in order to improve the water supply. More money will be invested to ensure that sufficient water is provided to homes, hotels, institutions and businesses in the New Year.
- The Attorney General announced that a law, which allows abandoned plots of land and decrepit buildings which pose health and security hazards, will be presented to Parliament giving government temporary control over such properties. The Minister of Works, under the law, will have the authority to beautify those plots and even to make mini-parks on the properties; they will not have permanent structures built thereon. Given the sacrosanct nature ascribed to private property under the Constitution of Antigua and Barbuda, the new law will ensure that owners may reclaim the property at some future date.
- The Cabinet examined the history of payments to the private owners of the Barrymore Hotel and concluded that the purchase price has been paid in full and that the government owes the sellers nothing. The hotel is currently occupied by former residents of Booby Alley who await the construction of new homes at the Point location, which will likely become available within 18 months.
- The Minister of Works provided data on the amount of rent which the government pays annually and how much is owed to landlords since the Covid crisis. She also listed the amount owed for procurement of supplies and other necessaries. A plan to pay-down on the debts owed will be announced by the Minister of Finance when he delivers his Budget Speech on December 15 2023.
- Work continues on the AUA Conference center for the upcoming Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference to be held in late May 2024. More than 5,000 delegates and 50 Heads of Government are expected to attend. There is every likelihood that a cruise ship moored in the harbour will accommodate 2,500 delegates. Several large States have already pledged contributions towards the hosting of this conference that will attract the world’s attention.
- Cabinet confirmed that the Throne Speech is to be delivered on Thursday 7 December 2023. The VC Bird National Holiday will be celebrated on Monday 11 December 2023. The Budget Speech is scheduled for December 15.