January 2023 ushered in a new Minister Hon. Charles (Max) Fernandez to head the Ministry of Aviation, added to his heavy burden of restoring Tourism post-COVID.
A generally good soul, the Minister has been finding it difficult to take up the new Ministry added to his load, and as such, the Ministry of Aviation is still sitting in the dingy APUA moldy office, with Permanent Secretary and some young interns and learners, plus the Controller & Deputy and their secretaries.
The small but important group of services the staff are expected to give, and which Aviation demands, they clearly cannot supply, working half day because of mold, and leaderless because there is no Ministry, no Minister! Aviation’s main asset, the airport is operating in isolation.
Antigua Barbuda Airport Authority, which has been operating with a weak statutory management structure since the departure of the Jamaican CEO, certified in Operations, now demised.
The ad hoc management group have found themselves far beyond their aviation experience, and certification in airport management, all resulting in their personal opinions replacing the ICAO Rules and Regulations, and their failing to be Transparent in matters pertaining to their portfolio.
It is rumored that the three management personnel have been operating without contracts for almost a year as the confrontation between them, the Board, the Permanent Secretary, the ICAO Coordinator, and the Minister in abstention, continues unabated.
The confrontational approach of the Airport management has brought several failures to the fore, most urgent is the certification of workers which has left the airport unable to operate beyond 10 pm.
Air Traffic Control officers have been dramatically reduced in their ability to operate in the tower due to their deficiencies, while Security and other personnel are most disgruntled due to failures in funding their equipment & operations, including unpaid emoluments.
This failure to manage the business of Aviation at the level of the Ministry is compounded by the illiterate opinion of ABAA management, where any reference to the Permanent Secretary, is met with a cold response that ABAA cannot be instructed by the Permanent Secretary of The Ministry of Aviation.
The Constitution is still in place, and it establishes the authorized Government signatories of the various Ministries as the Permanent Secretaries, recognizing that the Ministers are responsible for Policy
Finally, it is clear that the Minister has not yet taken ownership of the Aviation Ministry, and, if after eight months he is still unclear about the way forward out of the mess that he has inherited, at least, his lack of interest is decisive.
Minister Fernandez has decided that this is his last round at the polls, Tourism is what he is considers his legacy, and his inaction says, to hell with Aviation!
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