HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday, 14 December 2022
Cabinet commenced its meeting at 11:00 am and concluded at 3:00 pm, all members were present. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Education attended a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the Sir Novelle Richards Academy, next door to the ABICE. A large swimming pool and a water park are to be built for the use of the National Swimming Team and others. The Antigua and Barbuda Aquatic Center is being constructed with world class amenities to facilitate the training and development of our athletes, and Antigua and Barbuda hosting regional and international swimming events.
- The Cabinet reiterated its decision to ensure that all wages, salaries, pension payments and social security recipients will be paid in full for the month of December on or before Friday 16 December 2022. On November 30, 2022, two weeks ago, the Cabinet ensured that wage earners, salaried workers, pensioners and social security recipients received their end-of-month payments in full. Some banks have already commenced salary and wage payments for the month of December
- Negotiations with several unions are continuing to determine how much of a percentage increase is to be paid within the contractual three-year period 2018, 2019 and 2020. The government paid a five percent increase in 2018 to those entitled, but owes increases to workers in 2019 and 2020. Since negotiations will not be completed by 2022, the government is prepared to pay—on or before December 31, 2022— a back-pay of one month’s salary and wages to all government employees who are eligible. The negotiations will continue in the New Year so that a precise amount to be paid to each and every eligible government employee can be determined.
- The Minister of Health made a proposal to provide the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) an amount of two hundred thousand U.S. dollars to meet the expenses owed to truckers and others by the Authority. The Cabinet approved the proposal such that, before the Christmas holidays, truckers and others will receive a portion of monies owed to them, reducing significantly the amount owed to many of the contractors.
- The Cabinet was informed that many workers in the private sector were having their employment ended at age 60, and are then without an income for a period of two years before they become eligible for social security payments. The Cabinet, in order to avoid this untenable situation, has agreed that in the New Year when a new Parliament is convened, it intends to establish a National Retirement age to move in lockstep with Social Security eligibility.
- The Cabinet continues to act in order to ensure that youth productivity is achieved by the creation of many new jobs. The expanded ABICE, where young people are taught many skills, will also approach many employers so that the students will be ensured an income, while they acquire these skills. The expansion of ABICE was made possible by Mr. Harrison an Englishman who donated 4 million pounds sterling. The Youth in each constituency will be identified and opportunities provided that will match their ambition.
- The Cabinet made a decision to provide support to a youthful entrepreneur who has already started a farm and has been selling his produce to residents of his neighbourhood. The Entrepreneurial Development Programme will take an equity stake in his business.
- The Cabinet applauded the Ministry of Legal Affairs for its outstanding profusion of new legislation during 2022. The Cabinet allowed the Ministry to hire additional young lawyers as draftsmen so that many new laws and amendments to legislation were completed. The Minister assured the Cabinet that there will be even more work done in 2023, as the Ministry advances the legislative framework. The Cabinet will take its usual Christmas break effective immediately; however, members have agreed that any important decisions to be made can be undertaken using the new technologies.
- The Cabinet was informed that the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC) has been able to source LPG to meet the demands of hotels and households until the seas are sufficiently calm, allowing the re-filler vessels to dock. It is expected that the first vessel will arrive on Saturday. For almost three weeks rough seas and groundswell have prevented LNG and LPG re-filler vessels from re-supplying the WIOC storage tanks.
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