HURST REPORTS ON CABINET of Wednesday 8 June 2022
The Cabinet commenced its meeting at 10:30 am and concluded at approximately 5:00 pm or for more than 6 hours. Two members were absent, away on official business.
- The Cabinet invited the General Manager of APUA, the Water Manager and the Supervisor Responsible for the many valves that determine water flow following production at the many reverse osmosis plants. The APUA Team reported that the drought is getting worse while the demand for water has increased; the APUA is also increasing its output by adding new membranes and new filters to unit number 8 at Crabbes Peninsular. The output at Crabbes has increased to 3.7 million gallons daily and when the other unit comes on stream from the 15th of June, Crabbes will produce 4 million gallons daily.
- Demand for water at this time exceeds 8 million gallons daily; APUA is currently producing 6.5 million gallons at this time. The deficit is to be cured by bringing online the new Fort James Plant that will be producing 500,000 gallons in the first phase; the Bethesda plant which will be producing 3 million gallons when it is constructed; and, by regular maintenance of the Barnacle Point plant and the Camp Blizzard plant. The Cabinet decided that until there is sufficient water being produced that it will summon the APUA Water Manager to its meeting every week.
- The Cabinet invited the Managing Director of the Social Security Board to address the issue of pensioners not being registered, upon the presentation of inadequate documentation. All retired persons who are eligible for a pension must provide all the documentation necessary for registration to be complete. The Cabinet is giving consideration to having provisional registration until such time as all the documents required are presented to Social Security.
- The Director appeared on a radio program recently and was asked about payments to Social Security, made by the current and prior administrations. The current leader of the UPP who served as Finance Minister from 2009 to 2014 was also on the same radio program. The former Minister asserted that his administration provided a Government bond that was the equivalent of making a full payment to the Social Security Scheme current by 2014.
The Director conceded during the Cabinet meeting that no administration has provided the cash necessary to make payments to Social Security Pensioners like the current administration. $30 million dollars a year (and more) have been paid by this current administration to Social Security. A bond is not cash, the Director conceded. The Covid-19 pandemic, which caused the hotels to close and many employees of other industries to be laid-off, adversely affected Social Security payments and to slow the progress made in eliminating the debt to Social Security. As the economy recovers, payments to Social Security will also increase, the Cabinet asserted.
iii. The picket organized by the UPP in front of Social Security office on Long Street was dismissed by the Cabinet for its hypocrisy. The Cabinet recognizes that the funding for Social Security had dried up by June 2014. The Social Security Board had inadequate funding for payments in early 2014; that condition led to a rush of pensioners who slept on the steps of Social Security building in order to be closer to the head of the queue in the morning. Empathetic and concerned Patriots would regularly provide hot bush tea and snacks to the senior citizens who subjected themselves to hours of waiting for payments, during the years of the former administration.
- The Minister of Creative Industries ensured that all 24 experts within the Festivals Office and several stakeholders who have committed to Carnival 2022 were present at Cabinet in order to present their programs and to answer questions. The leaders gave an overview of the more than 100 events beginning prior to 24th July–the start of Carnival 2022–and ending on the 2nd August 2022.
In the absence of a panorama competition, there will be a Pan Show where all the steel bands will perform on the Sunday night (prior to Monday J’ouvert) at the Antigua Recreation Grounds. There will be pand’garden, pand’culture, pand’road, pand’mix, and the School Panorama. A special pan event to celebrate two panists that are very ill, Babu Samuel and Devon Batchelor, will also be a part of the Carnival celebrations.
The carnival events including parades, t-shirt mass, street events, calypso tents, Jaycees Queen Show will be part of the normal fare of carnival festivities; however, some innovations were proposed that were accepted by Cabinet. It is anticipated that the Monday and Tuesday parade will travel up Factory Road to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
- The dismantling of the double decker stand will commence next week and all the vendors have been relocated opposite the ARG, nearest to the Printery. All preparations for ARG’s Carnival city will commence momentarily, to include a stage, the cleaning of the stands and grounds, lighting and security.
iii. The Ministry responsible for Festivals and Innovation will hold several press conferences, almost weekly, to keep the people of Antigua and Barbuda informed of the plans as they take form. The Government appreciates the work that has been done to bring forward Carnival. Robust collaboration between Government and stakeholders continues. Failure is not an option, Cabinet declared.
- The Cabinet enquired about Caribana 2022 and learned from the Barbudan Senator that it was a favourable re-start of the event after two years. Many Antiguans travelled to Barbuda to enjoy festivities which took place at Caribana City as well as at the beach.
- The Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment reported that most COVID-19 cases are mild; however, more masks are to be distributed and worn in order to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 and its variants, especially during the Carnival Season. The Cabinet decided, on the urging of the Minister of Health, to provide additional resources to the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to meet outstanding payment to labourers.