HURST REPORTS ON CABINET OF WEDNESDAY JANUARY 9 2019
- The Cabinet re-assembled for the first time in 2019 and immediately returned to business. Minister Michael Browne also re-joined, and participated actively.
Four groups were asked to appear before the Cabinet in order to provide information and to assist in intelligent decision-making.
- Two officials from Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC flew from New York to discuss the extension of a loan to the Government. The firm was instrumental in lending US$100 million dollars to the UPP regime at a whopping 13% interest rate. The interest rate was negotiated downward by the incoming Gaston Browne Administration after 2014. That loan has been significantly reduced by regular payments. The Gaston Browne administration, having been assessed as a good credit-risk, has won the assurances from the lending company that it is willing to lend an additional amount at a far lower fixed-and-variable interest rate. The firm’s first proposal, which included a lender’s fee of a burdensome amount, was rejected. The counter-proposal to the Credit Suisse officials, by the Cabinet, will likely be agreed-to by the decision-makers. The team will confirm the rates early next week, the Cabinet was told.
The entire series of events leading to the loan will likely be conveyed by Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Honourable Gaston Browne, when he brings forward the Budget Statement next Thursday morning, 17th January 2019, at 9:30 am at the Parliament.
- Robert DiNero, the renowned American actor, known here for his Barbuda Paradise Found Project, came to Cabinet on Wednesday morning accompanied by four officials, one of whom is his new partner named Daniel Shamoun of SLH (Small Luxury Hotels of the World). The DiNero partner operates 520 small luxury hotels all across the world, and has been persuaded to join the Paradise Found Project, investing many millions in the Barbuda project.
The Paradise Found Project was delayed by a pointless lawsuit brought by supporters of the BPM, who were trying their best to derail the US$250 million project. More than US$25 million dollars have already been invested in the Paradise Found Project by its principals, and Mr. DiNero is committed to completing the project which will occupy the space previously occupied by the K Club. The demolition of the K CLUB buildings is to begin in the coming week, palms are to be planted along the shoreline, and construction of the new buildings to house workers during the construction phase will also begin shortly.
The DiNero project is next door to the PLH/CoCo Point project by John Paul DeJoria which has already broken ground, selling plots to millionaires for the building of luxurious housing and a new kind of tourism accommodation called “glamping,” (glamorous camping). More than one hundred workers are transported to Barbuda in the early morning and returned in the evening each day, constructing the beautiful and luxurious bungalows that will comprise part of the PLH / CoCo Point project. That project will be worth more than US$250 million dollars also. A third project on Barbuda’s south shore, known as the Dulcina Hotel Project, will also be kicking-off within months, making the south shore of Barbuda a very busy construction site for months to come.
The Barbuda runway is under construction, although a pointless lawsuit by BPM supporters brought the project to a halt for many weeks; those delays are estimated to cost more than US$750,000 (seven hundred and fifty thousand US Dollars). The BPM Opposition has tried to block every project which has been proposed for Barbuda’s development.
iii. Ministry of Education Officials and other Officials from the Board of Education were invited to the Cabinet to discuss the E-book project that has been nursed along for a few months. Two principals from the E-book company were also invited to the meeting. Discussions revolved around the cost of the project. It was agreed that the cost will not exceed the cost of using text books, which the E-book project is intended replaces. The principals will therefore return to the drawing board to re-compute the cost of the various inputs to bring them in line with the anticipated costs.
- Four doctors from the Ministry of Health were invited to appear before Cabinet at the insistence of the Minister of Health and Wellness. The Chief Medical Officer explained that a plan has been devised to ensure that dengue fever, which has posed a problem in several countries, including deaths in one Caribbean country, does not impact Antigua and Barbuda. Although the disease is carried only by the Aedes Egyptae mosquito, elimination of the mosquito is virtually impossible. Fogging and other methods of vector control have therefore been planned on a wide scale, and all households are asked to ensure that breeding places for mosquitoes are eliminated. The Aedes Egyptae mosquito lays eggs in vases, old tires, flower pots and anywhere that water accumulates. The doctors recommend nets over beds, long sleeves when going out in the early mornings and early evenings, and other defensive methods that prevent mosquitoes from biting. There is no immunity against dengue; therefore, anyone can contract the disease. Given the importance of tourism to the economy of Antigua and Barbuda, every effort has to be made throughout the nation to prevent the disease from making many people sick. A public relations campaign will commence immediately, and Cabinet voted a sum of money to enable the printing of materials, and the use of infomercials on radio and television.
The same mosquito is responsible for chikungunya and other diseases. Antigua and Barbuda was very successful in combating that painful disease.
- The Cabinet discussed the Cannabis Act 2018 and especially the appointment of the members of the Board of the Authority. Nine members sit on the Board, seven of whom are officials of the Government; they include the Attorney General, the Chief Medical Officer, the Commissioner of Police, the Comptroller of Customs, the Chief Agricultural Officer, a member of the Rastafarian Community, a Social Transformation Official. Two persons of integrity are to be nominated by the Cabinet, and are to come from scientific research, or medicine, or business or cannabis science. The Attorney General will draw up the relevant instruments for the appointees, or their representatives, as stipulated by the law.
The Cabinet also discussed the issuance of licenses for growing the plants, harvesting the stock, manufacturing the medicines in a secure laboratory, and dispensing the medicines. License fees are in the region of US$125,000; the law’s regulations will contain the cost of each license. The Regulations are not yet ready though the Attorney General indicated that the regulations will likely be completed by next week Wednesday, January 16, 2019.
- The Cabinet was reminded by the Minister that one of the engine sets at the Antigua Power Company electricity plants at Crabbs, known as Blackpine, is to become the property of the Antigua and Barbuda Government next month. The issue relating to who will operate the engine set—APUA or APC—was broached by the Cabinet. The Minister was instructed to develop a plan to be presented to Cabinet next week. Two power plants, capable of providing more than 80 MWH of electricity, are in operation. However, peak electricity consumption is now at 54 MWH or about two-thirds of the available power supply. Additionally, green energy, generated by solar power plants, is set to produce approximately 10 MWH. Wind power is about to become a significant contributor of green energy when the newly-arrived windmills are constructed.
Barbuda’s electricity supply will likely come exclusively from green power in the very near future, given the contributions from various sources to produce solar and wind-powered energy on the sister island.
- The Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment reported that the unlawful garbage dump near Pigott’s Village, which was recently brought to the attention of the Ministry, is to be closed off by the placing of huge boulders at those points where trucks could enter or exit the 8 acre site. Five acres were leased by an Antiguan businessman many years ago; he tried to backfill the site by surreptitiously dumping garbage on the wetlands. It is a natural watercourse. That leaseholder has died and all 8 acres are the Crown’s property. The site will be cleaned and certain natural features restored.
- The West Indies versus England test match will be played at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, beginning at the end of January 2019. Reports on the Internet are that tickets and airline seats from the U.K. are all sold out. However, tickets that are reserved for Antigua and Barbuda fans are still available for sale. More than 5,000 British cricket fans are expected to follow their team to Barbados, Antigua and St. Lucia.
- The Minister of Sports reported that work on the YASCO Sports Complex resumed today, Wednesday, January 9, 2019, following a break during the wet season and the holidays. The work on the track will be completed in about 8 weeks, or by March 12, 2019.
- The One Nation Concert takes place this Saturday night, 12th January 2019 at the Antigua Recreation Grounds, starting at 8:00 pm. Local and regional artistes will keep the crowd entertained for many hours. The One Nation Concert is an annual event on the calendar of the island-nation, not unlike Carnival; this is the third edition. It is intended to bring the many citizens of the various countries that call Antigua and Barbuda home into a single venue with Antiguans and Barbudans, in order to create a feeling of oneness. The expectation is that thousands will attend the concert which is free. Its object is to mould the Antigua and Barbuda nation into a cohesive and binding whole, despite the competition which takes place for the many benefits which living here allows.
- The Deluxe Cinema property on High Street has not been purchased by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. The property is being rented and will be known as the Performing Arts Center of Antigua and Barbuda.