CABINET NOTES: April 17 2024


HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 17 April 2024

 As is the weekly custom, a priest (of the Moravian Church) delivered prayers at the start of the meeting and prayed for the success of the SIDS 4 Conference scheduled for May 27- 30.


1. Cabinet has agreed to provide limited access to diplomats and delegates from Bangladesh who will be present in Antigua to attend the SIDS 4 Conference. However, the Cabinet has decided against the request for visa-free access for citizens of that country who may wish to visit Antigua at other times.


2. The Cabinet invited Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to Lebanon to speak to his proposed investment at Willoughby Bay. He estimates that on the real estate that will likely be assigned, he can build ninety (90) villas for sale to potential CIP applicants. His model is very much the same as that employed by several successful investors and he has shown a capacity to deliver on his promises in the past. Willoughby Bay was conceived as an area that could be developed in the post-Covid period that would strengthen the economic recovery of Antigua and Barbuda after the economic decline suffered during Covid. That ambition is beginning to take root with this investment that will generate more than $100,000,000.00 worth of economic activity.


3. Two senior officials from the Immigration and Tourism Departments accompanied the principal of a technology company called ZEN to Cabinet, interested in providing a fix for reducing the waiting time for passengers arriving Antigua, especially on weekends. Passengers arriving Antigua and Barbuda are required to complete an E/D Card (Embarkation/Disembarkation Card) which is handed to an Immigration Officer along with the passenger’s passport; the Immigration Officer swipes the barcode within the passenger’s passport and then double checks to determine if the data provided by the written card match the passport data. The passenger is usually asked how long and where he/she intends to stay. The improved system which the technology firm proposes would have all the information inputted by the passenger as many as 48 hours before arriving Antigua, freeing the Immigration Officers at the V.C. Bird International from treating long lines of waiting passengers. The arriving men and women and family members would swipe their passports, submit to a camera, and proceed to Customs. The Cabinet considered the cost and the border security concerns before thanking the firm for its presentation. No decisions were taken.


4. The Cabinet invited the Chief Pathologist to address the issue of autopsies and the state of the government-owned mortuary. The principal reliance for the disposal of cadavers lies with the two funeral homes–providing the dead are claimed by a family. When a person dies in the public hospital or on the streets, and the dead is not claimed, the responsibility for burial becomes the taxpayers’. A larger number of family members are refusing to claim their dead, and the funeral homes do not accept the human remains for storage. Hence, the Ministry of Health, under whose portfolio falls the Central Board of Health, is seeking to strengthen the storage capability. A decision was made to purchase freezers that will be placed in the mortuary building at the old Holberton Hospital that can accommodate up to six cadavers. Autopsies can also be carried out at that building, and on the properties of the funeral home.


ii. The Cabinet took note of the fact that a number of healthy (elderly) persons at the SLBMC cannot be discharged because their families have abandoned them. The Cabinet takes note of this worrying trend, and seeks to encourage all families in Antigua and Barbuda to love and to care for their elderly parents and grandparents.

5.  The Cabinet invited the lawyer from the Ministry of Legal Affairs who has responsibility for treaties and other agreements with states, and the Consultant with the Ministry of Aviation, to address the “Open Skies Agreement” entered into with the USA. The Agreement is intended to bring certain freedoms for entry into US territories and into Antigua and Barbuda air space. An “Air Services Agreement” dating back to 1977 has been updated, allowing carriers from Antigua and Barbuda to enter into US territories like Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the continental USA, and reciprocal rights that inure to the benefit of Antigua and Barbuda.


A very brief discussion on the LIAT (2020)  Ltd. flight tests was mentioned, and the recruiting of staff to fill many positions that are now open.

6. The Cabinet addressed the issue of mentally challenged persons who engage in criminal activity, are apprehended, and who must be housed both before and after their encounter with law enforcement and the Courts. Given the nature of the persons’ capacity, and the need to separate the mentally challenged from the population of prisoners, a decision was taken to utilize the refurbished building at Crabbes that housed ABDF personnel. An entire phalanx of staff and other personnel will be required to achieve the ends for which the Cabinet and the Court seek their improved security.


7. The Cabinet held a discussion on taxes to be levied on the many fetes and other entertainment that proliferate in the months of May through December each year. Negotiations with the fete organizers have concluded with mutually acceptable arrangements that will result in adherence to the law governing taxes. The agreement allows for a fair share to flow into the Treasury through the Inland Revenue Department.


8. The Cabinet will next meet on Thursday, April 25, 2024, in order to accommodate attendance of Ministers to a number of engagements next week Wednesday.


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