HURST REPORTS ON CABINET OF Wednesday 21 September 2022
The Cabinet meeting commenced with its customary prayer by an invited priest. Several Ministers are away on official government business, including the Prime Minister, causing the meeting to be chaired by the Acting Prime Minister.
- There were no invited experts to Cabinet.However, the Chair called the Solicitor General on the telephone for him to provide the most current information on the legal arrangements to complete the dredging of the harbour, that would enable the OASIS Class ships to berth at the new pier.Some very hard and dense rock has been a challenge to dislodge, in order to make the channel through which the vessels will travel much wider and deeper. The dredging equipment utilized by the contractor, known as Blue Ocean Dredging, has been repeatedly damaged by the toughness and density of the rock. Special equipment is being brought in to dislodge the dense rock that has slowed significantly the widening and deepening of the channel, to meet the requirement of the largest cruise vessels that will visit Antigua. The required equipment is being moved from Panama to Antigua; it will complete its work in a few weeks shortly after arrival in Antigua’s waters.
- The Cabinet, in reviewing the minutes of last week’s meeting, held a robust discussion about the use of Antigua’s seascapes and landscapes in order to film a movie featuring a well-known and revered Indian star, and utilizing well-known Antiguan cricketers.These factors would help to draw audiences from immigrant Indians living in Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and others in the Indian diaspora. The groups of Indians living outside of India would be drawn to the film, and would also see beautiful Antigua as a tourism venue. The incomes and interest of the Indian market has excited the film-maker, who is persuaded that Antigua is uniquely suited to attract a large number of the Indians and their descendants living in English-speaking countries in the Western Hemisphere.
- The Cabinet undertook a review of the impact of the storm, Fiona. It resulted in the closure of schools and the cancellation of classes last Friday, September 16, 2022, and impacted electricity and water supply on Saturday and Sunday, 17 and 18 September 2022.The Minister responsible for APUA gave a report indicating that no APUA employee/linesman was injured during the 48 hours passage of the storm, although the technicians were busy reconnecting electricity lines following high winds and downpours of rain. All APUA electricity customers were reconnected by Monday morning. APUA water customers were inconvenienced because of the absence of electricity to power the reverse osmosis plants and the turbidity of the seas. Lots of sand and other debris, stirred-up because of the rough seas, caused the reverse osmosis plants to be turned off to prevent damage to the membranes and other sensitive parts. APUA not only published a press statement but the Water Manager appeared on several radio stations to explain why water was temporarily suppressed.
- The Minister of Tourism shared a publication by the Antigua and Barbuda Hotel and Tourism Association (ABHTA)juxtaposing occupancy performance for the period January-to-August months for 2019 and 2022. The data did not include 2020 and 2021 since they were the most intense years of Covid. The chart shows the availability of rooms for 3-Star, 4-Star and 5-Star hotel properties in Antigua during the period. In the months of June, July and August occupancy rates in 2022 exceeded the rates in 2019, attesting to the aggressive marketing by the Ministry of Tourism and the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority. Tourism has clearly bounced back, the Minister noted; the growth and the demand for rooms in Antigua are quite evident.
- The North wing of the old Halcyon Hotel has been demolished to make way for two hundred and fifty new rooms, during the first phase of the re-construction. Halcyon was at first the Caribbean Beach Club (CBC) which opened its doors to visitors around 1960, or sixty-two years ago. It has welcomed hundreds of thousands of guest over the years, and has served as a foundation of the embryonic tourism industry in Antigua. It sits on one of the most beautiful beaches in Antigua. The second phase of development will cause bungalows to be built on the hillsides above the hotel. Both construction phases will employ more than 450 workers, each will last more than two years. Sunwing International has commenced the investment just as it did with the Royalton (formerly Royal Antiguan Hotel) three years ago, turning a rundown property into a world-renowned 5-Star resort.
- Robert Dinero has already planted a Nobu restaurant on Barbuda and is planning to expand his investment by building a 5-Star Nobu Resort beginning early next year. Barbuda will become a place for high-net-worth visitors from all around the world. The new Airport Terminal, a new FBO, and a new runaway capable of accommodating jets as large as the Boeing 727, will beable to land on Barbuda. The future of Barbuda is great, the Minister of Tourism declared. The PLH Project is currently under construction on Barbuda; more than 600 workers are employed there, building private homes, bungalows and multiple suites. The project is worth more than $2 billion dollars.
- Following his visit to London for the officialfuneral of Queen Elizabeth II, his meeting with King Charles III, and his journey to New York, the Prime Minister has been chairing meetings at the United Nations, and completing his National Statement to the United Nations General Assembly planned for Friday, 23 September, 2022. The Prime Minister will also address a Town Hall Meeting on Saturday evening at an Episcopal Church in the Bronx, before returning to Antigua on Sunday, 25 September 2022. The Cabinet expressed its pleasure at the successes enjoyed by Prime Minister Gaston Browne since his departure from Antigua.