Editorial Staff
2 months ago

Editorial Staff
2 months ago

HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday January 3 2024

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Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister Lionel Hurst

The Cabinet began its proceedings with a prayer by a Minister of religion. After wishing each other a prosperous, healthy and productive New Year, the Cabinet members gave an assessment of the degree to which citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda enjoyed the Yuletide season.

It was a good, joyful and merry Christmas for adults and children alike, spurred on by the distribution of hams, turkeys, and chickens.

The implementation of a 2% increase in ABST, from 15% to 17%, did not dampen the spirit of the Antiguan and Barbudan population. In fact, there was a renewed faith and confidence in the ability of the government to provide a raise of 9% to its unionized employees, beginning on the first day of January 2024.

  1. The Cabinet affirmed its decision to discontinue discretionary waivers on the forgiveness of Duty, ABST, Revenue Recovery Charge (RRC), and the Environmental Levy on the importation of used vehicles and on the sale of new vehicles. The Customs and Excise Department, in its year-end report on Revenue Collection in 2023, noted that discretionary waivers exceeded the deficit amount which the government financed by borrowing. The discontinuation of the waivers is premised on filling the gap between revenues and expenditures, which must be undertaken to reduce the borrowings by the government.

 

  1. The Cabinet discussed a possible date for the opening of the Cancer Centre. The government’s valuator came to the conclusion that the Centre was worth approximately EC$6 to $9 million; the majority shareholder demanded EC$40 million dollars. By way of eminent domain, the Parliament of Antigua and Barbuda acquired and took control of the Centre in early December 2023. A refurbished Cancer Centre, provided with new and improved machines, will be operational within the first quarter of 2024, such that, those cancer patients who now travel abroad for radiation and other therapies will not be so inconvenienced.

 

  1. The Minister of Sports reported that from the 9th-20th June 2024, several international World Cup cricket matches are to be played at the two major venues in Antigua. England, India, West Indies, Australia, New Zealand and other international teams will play matches at these venues.

 

  1. The Cabinet was persuaded that the Home Assistance Project for the Indigent (HAPI) has been a shining example of rescuing those indigent families who have suffered fires that have destroyed all of their belongings, or other calamities that left them virtually homeless. The Cabinet has ordered EC$500,000 to be transferred to the National Housing for their continued management of the HAPI programme. The objective is to ensure that the time between the tragedy suffered by indigent home-owners and the provision of the new home, is greatly shortened. Many of the supplies to build new homes are freely given by hardware stores, lumberyards, and cement providers to construct these homes. The suppliers are usually moved by the situation of the indigent families and give generously.
  1. 5. The Cabinet noted concerns from a number of residents in various communities where overgrown, abandoned private properties are posing health and safety concerns. The Cabinet therefore examined and have asked the Development Control Authority (DCA) to enforce Section 47 of the Physical Planning Act which provides the DCA with the authority to issue Amenity Orders to private property owners, directing them to remove bushes and/or derelict properties that pose a health or security risk within 28 days’ Notice.  Failing which, the Authority will proceed with the cleaning and will bill the owner, as provided for under the Act. Also discussed was a possible amendment to the legislation to provide for if an owner, having received the Notice of the intention of the DCA to remove the unwanted vegetation, pay land taxes, and dispose of the derelict property, does not respond, then the government may sell the land to cover costs that exceed 50% of the value of the land.

 

  1. The Cabinet took the decision to add a Reverse Osmosis Plant at Five Islands to supply potable water to the growing student population, faculty and staff as the University expands. Such a plant will also supply potable water to the hotels in that area and neighbouring communities. It is estimated that in five years, the population of the UWI Five Islands Campus will likely exceed 5,000 students. The demand for water will then increase significantly. The existing and new hotels that are planned for the area would also demand additional gallons of potable water, daily.

 

6.i. The firm from Trinidad and Tobago that is to supply 2 million gallons of reverse osmosis water daily is already in Antigua, constructing the two Reverse Osmosis Plants. It is estimated that by April 30, 2024, the additional water will begin to flow to consumers. This company will build, own, operate, and then transfer (BOOT) the plants to APUA after a fixed number of years.

 

  1. The 4th United Nations Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Conference that will be held here in Antigua, in five months, continues to command the attention of the Cabinet. More than 50 Heads of Government and Heads of State will participate in the Conference and will likely be judging Antigua and Barbuda on its management and efficiency of the Conference. Many volunteers have stepped forward to help with the arrival and accommodation of more than 5,000 delegates who are likely to participate in this SIDS Conference. The Cabinet members continue to contribute significantly to the planning and execution of events that will be essential towards a successful Conference. It is anticipated that 2,500 rooms in several hotels will be occupied by delegates. Another 2,500 may be housed in a cruise ship that will dock in the Harbour for the days of the conference. Some hotels have already requested a deposit on rooms which they are offering to the delegates.

 

  1. The Minister of Health reported that workers who inhale fumes and impure air are showing an alarming rate of illness. The Cabinet, therefore, encourages all workers who are exposed to conditions that are likely to affect their lungs to wear protective masks, and to utilize other personal protective equipment (PPEs) during the times when they are working.

This urging by the Minister preceded any knowledge of the death and injury suffered by three workers at a cistern in Fitches Creek. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda expresses its condolences to the family of the deceased, and pray for a speedy recovery of the two workers who were injured.

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