HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday April 27 2022
The Cabinet commenced its meeting at 10:30am and ended at 5:00pm, all members except two were present.
The Cabinet has decided to extend the amnesty program for sixty (60) days or up until June 30th2022. There is a large number of undocumented immigrants who are still queuing to be processed at the Immigration Department before April 30th, the original deadline; the Cabinet agreed that an additional sixty days will enable all immigrants to comfortably receive the benefits of amnesty.
The Cabinet agreed that the water challenges are to be successfully addressed by September 30th2022. By that time three (3) additional Reverse Osmosis plants will likely come on stream to supplement the 6.5 million gallons of water daily to exceed 9 million gallons, daily. The current demand is 8 million gallons daily. The global-logistics challenge, with ships being delayed for lengthy periods, is one of the challenges which the APUA will have to overcome. The ordered plants and pipes have been delayed because of the trucking and shipping issues from the countries where the items have been purchased. The drought in Antigua and Barbuda has also impacted APUA’s ability to provide as much water as is required. The worst rainfall figures in a century were recorded last year. While the government continues to hope for rainfall, the Cabinet has taken the position that this drought may continue for a long time and that reverse osmosis water is surely to become the only source of potable water.
i.The Cabinet congratulated former Education Minister for his foresight in selecting early childhood education project funded by the Maria Holder Trust. The building in Buckleys will serve Swetes, All Saints and Buckleys. The Cabinet made the decision that this and everyearly childhood education school will be provided with free internet, adequate furnishings and qualified teachers. Both public and privately operated schools will equally benefit from such offerings based on need; the object is to close the gap between those parents whose earnings are severely limited and may not be able to afford schools that offers qualified teachers, internet or adequate furnishings.
Government Crèches are to be turned into endowed preschools in order to encourage learning between 0 and 5 years oldbefore the infants go off to Primary schools. Five members of the Early Childhood Education Department were invited to Cabinet to share their expertise and to provide the Cabinet with alternative policy choices for achieving the equality that is being sought.
The Minister of Housing assured the Cabinet that the provision of starter homes for $110,000- $120,000 consisting of two (2) bedrooms and one bathroom, kitchen, dining and living area, including lighting fixtures and cabinet fixtures,are in great demand. The Cabinet was informed that families earning around $3,000 are eager to acquire such homes, even to have them built on their own land. The Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank will be administering the mortgages and the finance is to come from Government’s own resources. These starter homes will be built all across the country and several will be constructed in City East, in Rural West, in Rural South, in St. Mary’s North and South, and in St. Phillips North and South where crown land is available; although, building on private land will also take place.
The Prime Minister reported on his engagement with the royal couple who spent a little less that twelve hours in Antigua on Monday 25thApril 2022. During a public presentation the Prime Minister addressed the issues of slavery, reparations and climate justice. The remarks drew the attention of the British press and also many Caribbean media houses. The Prime Minister noted that requests for international media interviews were many, and his interview with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom went viral. In that interview, Prime Minister Browne acknowledged that the Royal Couple would have little influence on the matter but they could quietly and diplomatically influence those who matter. The Prime Minister also reported that Harvard University has set aside US$100 million dollars to an endowed “Legacy of Slavery Fund.” Prime Minister anticipates receiving a number of scholarships each year from Harvard for the brightest of Antigua and Barbuda youth to study at this prestigious university, built in part by the profits from slavery and the slave trade in Antigua.
6. The Cabinet agrees to invest $75 million USD in two years to The UWI Five Island Campus in order to make it a world class campus, serving the OECS. The Cabinet also agreed to invest significant sums in healthcare. Over the weekend another successful kidney transplant operation took place at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre. The former Edward Ward at the old Holberton Hospital will be transformed into a Renal Unit for dialysis and renal transplants. The current renal unit at SLBMC will be transformed to a dedicated Cardiac Unit. The Cabinet concluded that no other government has spent nearly as much on education, healthcare and infrastructure as this government, in any eight-year period.
The Cabinet welcomed seven (7) young cricketers and their parents as they are about to take off to the United Kingdom for a cricket and cultural exchange programme.The Government will cover the cost of their air fare, personal accident travel insurance and a stipend to cover the period of April 27th to September 11th 2022. The Prime Minister, in addressing the seven cricketers and their parents, encouraged the cricketers to think of themselves as the greatest cricketers that they could possibly be. He invoked the memory of Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Curtly Ambrose, Sir Richie Richardson and Sir Andy Roberts, and he encouraged them to become their very best. They must show grit and determination and never relent in their quest to be the very best. The Cabinet has before welcomed the Seaforth twins and Mrs. Kimberly Percival who emerged victorious in bodybuilding; and, cricketers Rakeem Cornwall and Azari Joseph. Next week the Cabinet will welcome the Antigua and Barbuda medalists from the recently-concluded CARFITA Games held in Barbados and Jamaica.
The Cabinet received a report on COVID-19 from the Minister of Health. One additional death has been recorded of an 89-yearold who died with COVID-19 and with underlying health conditions. Last week there were forty-four (44) new cases of COVID-19; this week the number is down to thirty (30) cases. Everyone who has not yet received vaccination and or booster shots are encouraged to step forward to strengthen their immune systems against COVID-19.
The Cabinet took a decision to improve the safety of the race-car track by assisting it in building a cement barrier and sand traps. The racing fraternity is planning a New Year’s meet and the improvements in the safety of the track will be assured by then. The Prime Minister also noted the Prime Minister’s Cup, racing event, slated for Sunday May 1st2022.
The largest Labour Day gathering in the 71-year history of Labour Day is planned for Monday May 22nd2022. Thousands will gather at the V.C Bird bust for 9:00 am, march to 46th North Street and then proceed to Fort James for an evening of fun and frolic for all to attend. There will be a Church Service on the Sunday proceeding at the Grace Apostolic Church commencing at noon.
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