Summary of the Meeting of the Cabinet
Held on Wednesday 25th October 2023
- As it customary, Cabinet convened at 11:00 with an invocation and exhortation by a pastor.
- The Cabinet gave thanks that the recent passage of Hurricane Tammy saw the nation being spared the worse of its wrath. While Antigua received some wind and rainfall, there was minimal damage to critical infrastructure. Barbuda also did not receive severe damage, a situation for which the Cabinet is thankful. The Prime Minister will lead a team of senior officials on a visit to the sister isle very soon.
- The Cabinet agreed that the technicians at the Antigua Meteorological Services, the National Office of Disaster Services, and ABS are to be commended for keeping the nation informed during the passage of Hurricane Tammy. The Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) is also being commended for taking pre-emptive measures to safeguard utility services, which were fully restored in a short time especially in Barbuda, after the passage of Tammy.
Discussion on the By-Election in St. Mary’s South Constituency
- Cabinet discussed the recently concluded by-election held in the St. Mary’s South constituency, where the United Progressive Party’s Kelvin Simon emerged victorious. The Cabinet extends its congratulation to Mr. Simon on his victory at the polls. It also reaffirmed the position that persons seeking to be elected to the nation’s Parliament ought to do so in accordance with the law, as this was the main contention with the manner in which Mr. Simon contested the General Elections on 18th January 2023, having been nominated while still a Civil Servant.
Dwayne George to be Appointed Minister of State
- Cabinet further wishes to commend Senator Dwayne George who responded to the call to serve and in a matter of a few short weeks was able to gain support when compared to the performance in that constituency in the January General Elections. Senator George contested a seat that is known to be a stronghold for the UPP and was able to demonstrate that he is well prepared for leadership at the highest level. Accordingly, the Cabinet is pleased to announce that Prime Minister Gaston Browne has written to the Governor General advising that Dwayne George is to be appointed a Senator and Minister of State within the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance. The leadership is confident that his work in the St. Mary’s South constituency is only just starting and that it will bear much fruit. Cabinet therefore reaffirmed its full support for Senator George as the standard bearer for the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party in that constituency.
National Solid Waste Management Authority
- The Cabinet and a team from the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) examined various challenges that prevent the organization from performing as efficiently as is expected. As one of the government agencies responsible for sanitation and beautification, the NSWMA is critical to the health and wellness of our people. There is therefore a need for such an important entity to function at an optimal level.
- A review by the Board of the NSWMA discovered certain irregularities regarding the payment of service providers, inclusive of some contactors being paid by other Ministries and the NSWMA at the same time for the same service.
- Cabinet has therefore asked for a comprehensive examination of the NSWMA’s contracting arrangements in order to ensure that the agency is achieving its mandate to provide critical services to the nation. Cabinet has also asked the Ministry of Finance to assist in streamlining the arrangements for reducing arrears to service providers with the aim eliminating any superfluous service engagements also to coordinate activities for waste management with other related government agencies, inclusive of St. John’s Development Corporation and the Central Board of Health.
- A number of measures have been identified to bring the NSWMA back to a sustainable position. Inter alia:
- All service providers will be required to register with the Inland Revenue Department, the Medical Benefits Scheme, Social Security Board, and the Board of Education. All statutory deductions owed to these agencies will be deducted from the amounts owed to service providers.
- The NSWMA is to put measures in place to collect all outstanding tipping fees for use of the landfill.
- Three additional trucks are to be purchased to augment garbage collection.
- The office of the Financial Secretary will engage in discussions with the NSWMA to further identify shortcomings in its operations and to discuss ways in which the agency can become more efficient. A report is to be submitted to the Cabinet in two weeks.
Rent Restriction Board
- The Cabinet agreed that there was a need to closely revise and modernize the Rent Restriction Act. This piece of legislation was passed on 12th September 1947, and does not reflect the current realities of renting in Antigua and Barbuda. It has been observed that residents have expressed concerns with the rates being charged for rent by landlords, and also the difficulty landlords face in collecting rent from delinquent tenants. The intent therefore is to bring a sense of balance and fairness in the way in which rent is charged, and also to modernize mechanisms for landlords to be able to collect their rent. While the government agrees that the country operates a free market economy, the Cabinet agreed that there is a need to regulate this sector to ensure that there is fairness and equity. Moreover, it is desirable that the rate of increase in rent should be in line with the rate of inflation, and that rent ought not to be increased arbitrarily. To this end, the Rent Restriction Board is to be immediately put in place.
- The Ministry of Works is presently reviewing its schedule of work for the improvement of the road infrastructure in the country. The Cabinet agreed that more resources are to be allocated to that ministry to augment its road programme. Work is continuing on the approach road for the bridge at Cades Bay and is to be completed soon. Much needed attention is also to be given to the St. John’s Rural South constituency to improve the poor state of some of its roads. The main road in Tyrells is to also receive some attention as recent rains have opened up several dangerous potholes along that stretch.
Implementation of the FAST Strategy in Agriculture Sector
- The Minister of Agriculture reported that at the 7th OECS Council of Ministers: Agriculture, a decision was taken to focus on three of the seven core areas of the Food and Agriculture Systems Transformation (FAST) strategy. FAST is a ten-year programme that seeks to build resilience in food security. The three core areas of focus are: private sector development; transport, logistics and trade; and climate resilient agriculture. Antigua and Barbuda will be examining ways to improve capacity in these areas, particularly on the question of climate resilient agriculture. The country has been experiencing drought conditions for the last few years, and the impact on the agriculture sector has been noticeable. There is a need therefore to find ways to mitigate this impact through innovation and technology.
ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024
- The International Cricket Council’s Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 will be played in the Caribbean and USA from 4th to 30th June 2024. Antigua and Barbuda will be the venue of several matches and other events during the tournament. To ensure the country’s readiness, a steering committee, chaired by President of the Antigua Cricket Association, Leon ‘Kuma’ Rodney, has been put in place to oversee the smooth planning and execution. Other members of the committee are Annette Aflak, Annette Barnes, Winston Williams, and Michael Freeland.
Payment for Medical Care for Mr. Gregson Joseph
- Cabinet agreed that the government is to cover the cost of medical care for Mr. Gregson Joseph, an employee of the Ministry of Works, who suffered severe burns while at work at the Burma Quarry on 26th June 2023. Mr. Joseph was treated at the Sir Lester Bird Medical Centre and was later discharged. The Cabinet reaffirmed its pledge to ensure that he receives the necessary treatment to aid his full recovery.
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