THE LATEST NOTES FROM CABINETFriday 28th May 2021
Notes from Cabinet: (PT1)
The Cabinet held a weighty discussion on the recent Mehul Choksi developments, including the international issues raised by his appearance in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Each statement which emanated from the friendly Government of Dominica was examined. The Cabinet concluded that the decision about Choksi’s fate seemingly now resides with the High Court of Dominica, where a habeas corpus writ has been filed. The Cabinet awaits the decision of the Dominica High Court which will likely render a decision on Friday, May 29, 2021.
Notes from Cabinet: (PT2)
The Cabinet invited the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, who also serves as the Chairman of the Tenders Board, to provide greater clarity on the Procurement Act which comes into effect on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, replacing The Tenders Board Act. Regulations were also being tweaked based on the successes of recent Cabinet oversight which, during the current administration’s exercise of authority, has virtually eliminated many of the known excesses of the previous administration.
The Cabinet members pointed to: a) the purchase of old buildings by the previous administration for excessive sums; they include Bencorp and Food City buildings; b) the excessive over-spending on several building projects, including the new Treasury Building and the ADOMS Building. These excesses were unknown to several UPP Cabinet members who learned of them by the ABLP in opposition. The Cabinet is of the view that causing decision-making to fall exclusively within the several proposed Ministry-specific boards is an invitation to wrong-doing. The Procurement Law is so structured that it minimizes disruptions when the Tenders Board Act falls away. It is designed to foster the development of local businesses. The law allows for set-asides and to engage a small number of disadvantaged groups—like women—to achieve some a preference. These are recognized and accepted internationally. There are also sustainable policy guidelines which ensure long-term survivability of certain goals. A training component is also created under the Act which ensures participation by many who might otherwise be excluded.
Notes from Cabinet: (PT3)
The Cabinet discussed the possibility of placing an Early Childhood Education Center in every village—not unlike the May 1946 ABLP Manifesto which promised a primary school in every village, in order to make formal education available to all children. The Cabinet agreed that the Early Childhood Education Centers will help to mold and prepare the infants for their eventual entry into primary school. The members agreed that this particular ambition would have to be implemented after the Covid crisis has passed and there is normalcy in economic activity across the state, especially when tourism has returned. A holistic approach to creating a new citizen is being pursued, especially to encourage boys and men to pursue higher/tertiary education in larger numbers.
Notes from Cabinet: (PT4)
The Minister of Health reported to Cabinet that the response to receiving second doses of the AstraZeneca—the only vaccine now available—has been very good. More than 8,000 second doses have been administered. It was also agreed that those who wish to be involved in competitive sports, such as football, netball, basketball, and even cricket will be required to have taken the two doses of the available vaccine; those doses ought to be 8 weeks to 12 weeks apart for maximum efficacy. It was agreed that any misleading statements on vaccines are to be refuted before they can take hold of believers and slow the process further; all Ministers will engage this campaign to address falsities.
Notes from Cabinet: (PT5)
The Minister of Tourism made several forecasts about the number of passengers who are likely to enter Antigua and Barbuda for leisure. One carrier anticipates that their line will bring 200,000 cruise passengers between June and December 2021. Antigua will be required to establish a kind of bubble for disembarking cruise passengers, such that the vendors, shop owners, bus and taxi operators, workers at historic sites will all be vaccinated. The same is expected of those who work at hotels—they will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to mix with co-workers and guests.
British Airways is planning to return to Antigua in full blast by having 4 flights each week, followed by 7 flights per week, and eventually increasing to 9 flights weekly. Virgin Atlantic will also increase its flights to the destination this year. There is pent up demand for leisure travel, the Cabinet was told, and the passengers will return in large numbers as soon as the source-markets achieve herd immunity.
Notes from Cabinet: (PT6)
The Fire Victims Fund allowed each household whose home was destroyed or severely damaged by a fire to be paid a maximum of $5,000. That fund may be resuscitated in order to bring some relief to victims of fire who continue to experience hardship. The Parliamentary Representative of City East is eager to have resources placed at the disposal of victims, despite the challenge created by Covid.
-The Cabinet agreed to create a new category of visas for students entering Antigua for the purpose of attending classes at UWI Five Islands. Every effort to attract OECS citizens and others will intensify, working with the UWI administration.
Notes from Cabinet: (PT7)
The Cabinet agreed to clear land at Judges Hill, creating 32 parcels to be sold at $8.50 per square foot at this highly-prized location. Roads, water, electricity and broad band services are to be provided to the new homes in the new area.
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