CABINET NOTES: April 4 , 2024

The content originally appeared on: Antigua News Room
Hurst

HURST REPORTS ON CABINET OF Thursday 4 April 2024

The Cabinet meeting began with prayers by a Minister of religion. The Cabinet then proceeded to hold discussions on the LIAT (2020) Ltd. and its proposed take-off. Two flights are planned with the ECCAA (Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority) officials that are a prelude to issuing the A.O.C. (Air Operator Certificate) which is required for the airline to be authorized to fly. The Cabinet agreed to pay $12.1 Million US into an Escrow account for the acquisition of the other planes owned by the Caribbean Development Bank.

1. The Cabinet commenced a discussion on refurbishing the unused Car Park at the top of High Street and Independence Avenue, since it remains an eyesore for the vast majority of people working in the city of St. John’s and for visitors to our shores. Monies had been set aside to create on the uppermost floor a permanent place for ABS TV/Radio/Media, prior to Covid, but had been diverted to tackle the pandemic. Cabinet considered providing new resources to carry out the refurbishment of operating space for ABS and for several private corporations whose employees and customers could utilize the refurbished areas of the purpose-built building to park their vehicles during work hours.

2. A Chinese investment group, with an interest in Antigua and Barbuda, that operates successfully out of Singapore, was invited to Cabinet. The company generates monthly revenues of $100 Million US and is seeking a foothold in the twin island-state, as an operating base in the Caribbean. The principal is of the view that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the next big change in technological innovation, since it will provide more communication power in the future. The firm assembles electronic vehicles in Mexico for export to North and South America. The principal was asked if Antigua could be considered for assembling vehicles; after receiving assurances of sufficient energy production, he deemed the prospect of such manufacturing in Antigua to be good. The group is scheduled to return to the Prime Minister’s Office to follow-up with several Cabinet members whose portfolios coincide with the Investor’s interest.  

3. Seven Officials from the ONDCP, the Intellectual Property Office, and the Ministry of Legal Affairs were invited to Cabinet to address the issue of the non-compliance status which the European Union (EU) imposed on Antigua and Barbuda recently. Believing that this designation could affect correspondent banking and other kinds of financial transactions which are necessary for operation of our tourism and other domestic sectors, the Cabinet is determined to take the necessary steps to become “compliant”. The team of lawyers and law enforcement officials will continue to collaborate in the drafting of the necessary amended legislation which will satisfy the EU regulators, who determine the designation into which a country falls.  

4. The Chief Environment Officer (CEO) was invited to Cabinet to report on the funding which Antigua and Barbuda is receiving and about to receive through several multilateral funding agencies, to include the GCF (Green Climate Fund) and the SIRF (Sustainable Island Resource Fund). The Department of the Environment secured resources to help repair and upgrade community clinics, police and fire stations, the ABDF Headquarters, schools and churches. These are institutions that double as community shelters during hurricanes and floods and must agree to serve such a purpose before funding is distributed.

The Chief Environment Officer (CEO) also was questioned about farmers and the provision of water to farms; it would not be appropriate for chlorinated water to be applied to crops and livestock. Consequently, a system of three ponds has been designed to remove chlorine from APUA water that is used on farms; and, the DOE has secured funding of as much as $35 Million US to enable the system to be put in place. Thus far five farmers have benefited from this technology, to a value of more than $150,000 US each.

The CEO also reported that the Loss and Damage Fund, established on account of the advocacy of Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, will hold its first board meeting at the end of this April 2024. Criteria will then be set to allow for countries to access qualifying grants. A proposal has been put forward to ready the Car Park for government-owned vehicles to be moved from the open and vulnerable carpool at Pigotts to the covered Car Park, in the event of a threatening hurricane or dangerous flooding.

5.  The Cabinet reiterated its policy to continue waiver of Duties, RRC and ABST for all those goods that will form a part of manufacturing output, in Free Trade Zones, for export; but, any goods intended for consumption within a Free Trade Zone will continue to attract Duties, RRC and ABST.

6. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has responsibility for the successful guidance of the SIDS4 Conference, gave a report to the Cabinet on the progress in the planning of the SIDS4. He has held multiple meetings with nearly all of the actors involved to ensure that the SIDS4 is a success. He has met with those responsible for security, several who are providing food, with taxi and bus operators, protocol officers and volunteers. It is agreed that delegates to the SIDS4 who arrive at V.C. Bird International during the 4 days of the Conference will have special lines at the Immigration check point and at the Customs; designated taxi cabs and buses will take the delegates to their accommodations. Other details were provided by the Minister who assured the Cabinet of a successful SIDS4 Conference.

7. The Minister of Sports reported on the ongoing work at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. Preparations for World Cup 24 at the Stadium have been undertaken by teams of workers from the National Housing Company, with the object of improving the cricketing experience of spectators in June. The Minister thanked his colleague Minister of Works for her invaluable leadership.

8. The Cabinet extends hearty congratulations to the athletes from Antigua and Barbuda who earned medals at the 51st CARIFTA Games.  Ellie Shaw received Gold in the 100 meters breaststroke; Anya DeGannes received Bronze in the 400 meters freestyle Girls 11-12; Madison MacMillan also received Bronze in the 400 meters freestyle Girls 15-17; Stefano Mitchell received Bronze in the 50 meters freestyle boys 18 and over. Maliek Francis received Gold in the under 17 boys Javelin, and set a new record. Geolyna Dowdye won Bronze in 100m girls; Tyra Fenton won Bronze in the Under-17 Girls 400 meters in a time of 54.89 seconds.

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