HURST REPORTS ON CABINET OF WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 13 2019
- The Cabinet invited Dr. Barbara Paca, a curator who volunteers her time and talent to promoting Antigua and Barbuda at several venues, and has been instrumental in mounting a permanent exhibit of Antigua and Barbuda art at The Venice Biennale art gallery in Italy. The curator, who also serves as the Cultural Envoy of the Ministry of Culture, put forward a plan to promote Antigua and Barbuda further at the outstanding gallery in Italy, in 2019, and to have a permanent presence there. The Cabinet examined the submission and asked that various costs be reduced. A final decision is to be made at the next meeting of the Cabinet, following a revised submission in the interim. The Ministry of Tourism will collaborate with the curator in order to bring more wealthy Italian tourists to Antigua. More than 42,000 visitors saw the Antigua exhibition and a similar number is likely to visit during the coming days of the exhibition in 2019; hence, the reason for collaboration.
The Cabinet also was informed of the dangers faced by ancient documents at the National Archives because of a leaky roof and other dangerous conditions; the micro-climate within the archives building, that needs to be controlled, is challenged by the intrusion of variable ambient temperatures. Cabinet was persuaded that Yale University is willing to assist and that the contribution would likely be given as reparations. An approach to Yale University was authorized by the Cabinet.
- Cabinet examined the developments taking place in the Point, and applauded the St. John’s City West Parliamentary Representative for the improvements that have been made, and those that are planned for a community that has not seen major improvements in decades. The applause followed a visit to Lower North Street in the Point on Saturday, February 9, 2019, by many of the members who went to a social function in celebration of the Prime Minister’s birthday. An area that previously was a dump for abandoned cars and a rotten wooden house, measuring less than an acre, was sold to a new owner for nearly $26.00 per square foot. A new building was constructed thereon at the cost of hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, transforming the area into a new hub of economic activity. Many residents, the Cabinet was informed, have applauded the changing circumstances at the previously run-down area.
The Cabinet also recalled that the Booby Alley is to be transformed with 150 new houses, intended to replace the dilapidated wooden houses that crowd the 3-acre site. Cabinet members acknowledge that the transformation of the Point is on its way. They applauded the Representative for doing more in the four years as Head of Government than the previous Prime Minister undertook in his constituency in 29 years.
- The Cabinet was informed by the Minister of Health that 4,000 more patients visited the Emergency Room of the Mount St. John Medical Center (MSJMC) in all of 2018, than in the year 2014. The increase in the number of patients is credited to knowledge of improved care at the MSJMC and in healthcare, despite the reports of occasionally long waits at the Emergency Room. More doctors and nurses have been assigned to Emergency Room service since 2014; however, critical emergencies can sometimes cause the surgeons and nurses to divert to life-threatening cases, as was the case recently. Three emergency cases one night this past week involved patients suffering heart ailments; the immediate intervention of the E.R. Doctors meant life or death. Other patients were required to wait.
- The Cabinet took a decision to waive all duties and taxes on gym equipment, in order to lower the cost to homeowners and consumers, effective March 1 2019. In an effort to contribute to healthier lifestyles, and to abandon the sedentary routine that characterizes many who work in offices, the Cabinet was advised that gyms are essential equipment. By lowering the cost of exercise equipment, the Cabinet intends to make such equipment more affordable. The Cabinet was made to understand that the neutral revenue impact which guided its decision in raising taxes on sugary drinks, is to be offset by the elimination of duties and taxes on gym equipment. The Cabinet also gave consideration to building outdoor gyms within communities, attached to basketball courts and other sporting centers. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the major cause of death in Antigua and Barbuda, characterized by hypertension and diabetes; getting boys and girls, men and women, to live active lifestyles including exercising in outdoor gyms, is one sure method to address the killer diseases plaguing Antiguans and Barbudans.
- The Cabinet reiterated its decision to establish within the Ministry of Works a Building Maintenance Unit responsible for the repair and refurbishment of all government-occupied buildings that are in need of upkeep. The Unit will clean the properties—although those who use the buildings and the spaces are also called upon to keep their surroundings dirt-free. The Unit will also have the responsibility to ensure proper aeration of the buildings; will repair leaks; and, will be charged with ensuring regular service checks, including the buildings’ overall health.
- The Cabinet reaffirmed its decision to transfer $200,000 to the Public Works for urgent repairs of the Margetson’s Ward at the old Holberton Hospital, transforming the same into a temporary extension of the Fiennes Institute. The refurbishment of the Nurses Hostel on Queen Elizabeth Highway is nearly complete; the residents of the Fiennes Institute will be temporarily housed at this government building while the 90 year-old buildings at the Fiennes compound are razed and new buildings that are purpose-built to accommodate the elderly are erected. The P.D.O. building on Valley Road is to be repaired beginning later this month. The staff have been moved to other quarters temporarily while the building is being assessed. The building is more than 50 years old, and requires a thorough cleaning and to be re-painted.
- 7. The Ministry of Health is seeking to enter into an agreement with the Green Climate Fund to engage in a test for sickle cell in newborn babies. The exact amount of the contribution and the length of the project has not yet been agreed. However, Cabinet welcomed the offer by the Green Climate Fund to provide the resources to begin the testing. Sickle Cell Anemia is one of the inherited diseases that affect people of African descent moreso than others. Experimentation on addressing the very painful attacks which “sicklers” suffer is being undertaken in many countries.
- The Cabinet was very pleased with the conduct of the Official Funeral for Dame Yvonne Maginley held on Tuesday, and continues to express condolences to the family.