HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 24th August 2022
The Cabinet convened its meeting at about 10:30 am and ended at about 6:30 pm, or after six hours of deliberation and debate. The Cabinet held intensive discussions on a wide variety of matters relating to the smooth running of the country. All members were present.
- Cabinet decided that all COVID-19 restrictions are to be lifted for arriving passengers by air. With respect to passengers arriving aboard cruise ships, the Cabinet has decided to adhere to the protocols enforced by the cruise lines until such time as the cruise lines themselves alter their protocols. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will publish an updated Travel Advisory and the new revised rules that will become effective shortly after publication.
- The Cabinet agreed to appoint several youth ambassadors and youthful managers to fill positions that require new energy and drive. Heads of a number of boards, directors of several government agencies, and members within the Senate will be considered for youth appointments. The Cabinet agreed that it is compelled to create space for youth leadership. and that there are several youthful candidates that had in fact been appointed following the 2014 and 2018 general elections. The Cabinet recalled that the Prime Minister, in consultation with the Cabinet, had appointed several 20-year-olds following the 2014 and 2018 general elections to legislative positions. Senators Lee, Fortune and Govia were appointed following the 2014 general elections. Minister Maria Browne, who won a seat in the Lower House at age 26 and, more recently, Senator Knacyntar Nedd, are among those who filled legislative positions within the parliament of Antigua and Barbuda within their 20s. New appointments will join previous youth appointments such as the Director of Gender Affairs and top management of the State Insurance Corporation, among others, to fulfill the Cabinet’s ambitions. The list is not exhaustive.
- The Social Protection Commission from the Ministry of Social Transformation, (which includes officials from the Ministry of Education, and the Minstry of Health) was invited to Cabinet to report on its findings, in keeping with the ambition for Early Childhood Education (ECE) for the nation’s infants seven years and younger. The group of professionals made several proposals in order to achieve the objective; research has shown that better adults evolve when structured learning commences as early as one year old. Therefore, more of these ECE Centers are to be built across Antigua and Barbuda in order to commence teaching the youngest citizens at an early age; several ECE Centers already exist, the newest is the Maria Holder ECE Center in Buckleys. That same charitable institution, following negotiations, will bear the cost of constructing several other ECE Centers. They will all adopt the same Standards and Regulations for Early Childhood Facilities proposed by the Ministry of Education (Early Childhood Education Unit) which will govern all institutions, public and private.
- The Director of Education, the President of the Antigua Barbuda Union of Teachers (ABUT) and his General Secretary were invited to address the issue of school plants’ security, and the security of teachers and of students. School will open for teachers on the 29th of August and on the 5th of September for students. Every step is being taken to ensure that every school has an adequate number of teachers and that the school plant is ready to receive the inflow of students.
- The Director reported that thieves steal anything and everything after they have broken into the school plants. While the Ministry of works is responsible for school security, it is not possible to have human security present in numbers at each school daily for 24 hours; hence, there is a plan to ensure that the new technology is deployed to secure all school plants and their valuables 24 hours a day. The construction of strong rooms, likened to a bank vault, is contemplated for storage of valuables. Officials from the ABUT, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Works will meet to discuss a reasonable alternative. It was also agreed that dark areas on the school plants will be lit; the ABUT and the staff will help to determine how many and where lights are needed on the school compounds. All schools are also to be fenced so that access in and out of the school plant can be monitored.
- The Minister of Health reminded that COVID-19 has been greatly reduced in its ability to spread; in any event, masks remain optional in classrooms but encouraged.
- Cabinet invited the principals of GROW Antigua–a medicinal cannabis company–to address it on the successes and failures it may have encountered thus far. GROW Antigua asked that the paid-for licenses be lowered in cost; licenses issued to both nationals and visitors wanting to utilize the medicinal cannabis, which growers will offer, are deemed prohibitive. The Cabinet agreed. GROW Antigua also asked that others trained to dispense medicinal cannabis but open to those trained and are over the age of 21 and accredited. The Cabinet agreed to give consideration to this request. The trained personnel will be vested with the authority to determine what product and at what strength can be dispensed to customers. Consultations will follow with other stakeholders. The GROW Antigua principals also announced that since their opening on the 15th of August they have received over 200 applications for licenses, signaling an industry that has a good future.
- The Youth Education and Empowerment Program (YEEP) has registered approximately 500 students. They are to begin receiving lessons in the upco ssming Academic year. The classes will likely be split between two venues to be confirmed shortly. The Cabinet applauded the Director, the Teachers and other staff of YEEP who have given their all to the success of this program. The registered students are primarily made up of working and unemployed adults who are now seeking to improve their chances of promotion at their jobs and employment possibilities through acquiring CXC’s and CAPE subjects; YEEP also is involved in the preparation of students for entering Universities.
- The (Acting) Director of the National Archives was invited to Cabinet to give a report on the state of affairs of the national archives and the important documents which can be found there, dating back to 1645. The attempt to digitize all the ancient documents held by the National Archives raises some questions about their use and accessibility.
- The Principals of Blue Ocean, the firm engaged in the dredging of the habour, reported to Cabinet on the progress they are making to fit the time-limits ordered by Cabinet. The hard-rock which the dredging company encountered disabled both the drill and the engine for one of the dredging machines, and had to be repaired at great cost. These setbacks increase their operational cost and require additional payments by the government, in order to reach the established deadline.
- Kimba Warner, an NBA Basketball player of Antiguan heritage is to be appointed an Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador-at-Large, the Cabinet decided. The members are of the view that this high profile player can be–and has indicated his willingness to promote Antigua and Barbuda youth–all across the USA. The post is non-paying.
- The Cabinet decided that Mr. Pat Whyte who served as a Director of Sports for more than a decade, who was a cricket umpire throughout the region and a celebrated Antiguan sportsman, is to be offered an official funeral.
- Parliament is to reconvene in two weeks or very likely on Thursday 8th September 2022 to present and to debate a number of bills. The audited report on APUA accounts are to be placed on the table.