ISSUE NO.51 March 2001
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Government Policies outlined
in Throne Speech
policies on several key issues were outlined on Monday, 19th
March by Governor-General, Sir James B. Carlisle, as Parliament
was reopened with the traditional Throne Speech.
Highlights of the policy statement are:
Government plans to tighten its fiscal stance in order to invest in public
sector programmes in education, health and infrastructure, and to reduce
the rate of debt accumulation.
Government intends to table fully-audited accounts in Parliament for the years
that are now outstanding. To achieve this objective, technical assistance
has been sought from Commonwealth Governments, and a team of accountants
will be arriving in the country shortly to finalise the accounts for transmission
to the Office of the Director of Audit. This team will set up a system and
train personnel in the Accountant-General's office to ensure that, in future,
accounts are completed and tabled in Parliament within the prescribed time.
Government intends to introduce a Bill dealing with Electoral Reform. This
Bill will take full account of the recommendations of the Commonwealth Team
that observed the last general elections as well as submissions made by several
persons and organisations in the society.
The Prime Minister has provided the Leader of the Opposition
with a copy of the draft Bill so that the two political parties
represented in the House might reconcile any contentious differences
before it is presented to the House.
Appeals to the Privy Council
Appeals to the Privy Council and the creation of the Caribbean Court of Justice
have been widely debated in the region. In keeping with our Constitution,
Government will put the matter before the people in a referendum at the appropriate
time. Government will not advocate one side of the argument or the other;
instead it intends to be guided by the wish of the majority of the people
in a free vote.
Government has fully accepted the recommendations of a Commonwealth Review
Team and a Joint Consultative Committee has been established comprising representatives
of the Central Government and the Barbuda Council. The early meetings of
the Committee have been very successful and Government looks forward to productive
and harmonious work from the Committee in the interest of Barbuda and the
Land for sale
In order to increase its contribution to our economy and to ensure that the
constructed buildings have a continuing beneficial effect on the economy, Government
proposes to sell 200 acres of land in selected areas of the country for development
Lands will be offered to nationals of Antigua and Barbuda both
at home and abroad, and to foreign investors, for the construction
of homes, town houses and apartments either for their own use or
for sale to high and middle income persons abroad who wish to establish
either retirement or holiday homes on Antigua.
The monies realised from the sale of the land will provide funds
to the Government to continue its capital investment programme
in health, education and infrastructure as well as employment generating
Offshore Financial Services and Internet
Notwithstanding the threats posed to these sectors by the member states of
the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) under its "harmful
tax competition" scheme, Government remains committed to their continued
growth and development.
Over the next few months, it is likely that my Government will
introduce legislation to convert the entities in these sectors
to local companies doing international business, in order to satisfy
OECD requirements that they should not be "ring-fenced" from
the local economy. Legislation may have to be introduced giving
these entities the right to do business domestically as well as
internationally, and, in this context, they may be required to
contribute to the local economy beyond the licence fees that they
Measures that my Government may introduce in respect of these
two sectors will ensure that they satisfy OECD requirements and
are allowed to continue to function without, either they or the
country, attracting sanctions from the OECD.
Anti Money Laundering
Government will keep its anti-money laundering legislation and enforcement
machinery under constant review. In collaboration with the Financial Action
Task Force and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, we will introduce
such measures as may be necessary to continue to keep our jurisdiction free
of money laundering and other financial crime.
Furthermore, my Government has used funds, forfeited under our
anti-money laundering legislation to build and fully equip a modern
facility at Camp Blizzard to house the Financial Investigation
Unit and the Drugs Intelligence Unit. The facility will be completed
It is widely known that Antigua and Barbuda passed the 25 criteria
set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and our nation was
judged to be fully cooperative in the fight against money laundering.
Regulation of Internet Gaming
Both the UK and US Governments have expressed concern about the need to ensure
that the internet gaming sector is covered by anti-money laundering legislation
and is adequately supervised. My Government considers such legislation and
supervision to be as much in the interest of the gaming sector as it for
the country itself. Consequently, legislation will be introduced during this
year to cover this matter fully.
Government intends to enter negotiations with Cable & Wireless with a view
to reducing their charges for international communications. If these negotiations
fail, Government will allow other companies, including the Antigua Public Utilities
Authority, to bid to compete against them. This matter of reasonable charges
for the conduct of international business is of great urgency, and it will
be tackled by the Government as a priority.
Government will enunciate a comprehensive Telecommunications
policy to govern the orderly development of the telecommunications
industry in a liberalized market. This will include the granting
of licences to qualified entities for the setting up of radio and
television Stations, and machinery for the establishment of standards
and regulation of the industry.
Government remains committed to delivering high quality health care for all.
It is expected that the New Mount St John's Hospital with approximately 187
beds will be completed late this year. The primary purpose of the new Hospital
is the provision of medical attention in a modern, high-quality institution
for all people regardless of their economic circumstances.
In addition to the new hospital five clinics at All Saints, Clare
Hall, Pigotts, Browne's Avenue and Johnson's Point will be fully
staffed and operational by May this year. These clinics will take
health care into the communities as a facility for all, particularly
for the old and infirm, and mothers with young children.
Education and Training
Government continues to attach the highest importance to education and training.
The very large number of computer-literate young people, who are able to
work for good wages in the information and technology companies in our country
as well as in offices, banks and other commercial organisations that utilise
computers, is testimony to Government's success in this area.
The increasingly large number of well-educated persons in our
society, including those with a University education, is also ample
testimony to the success of Government's programme to develop the
human resources of our nation through scholarships.
Government intends to continue its programme of upgrading schools
and maintaining them at levels conducive to study. It will also
continue to award scholarships for higher education and to train
teachers to provide the best possible education for our children.
Government's Teacher training programme has resulted in ninety
teachers pursuing full-time training locally and overseas. At the
end of their training, the quality of teachers in the school system
throughout the country should be better than many other countries
of the Caribbean, giving our students a competitive edge.
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Prime Minister introduces
Minister Lester Bird delivered his maiden Budget Statement as
Minister of Finance on Wednesday, 21st March to a packed House
The Budget provided for recurrent revenue for the year 2001 of
EC$503.1 million and expenditure of EC$511.8 million leaving a
deficit of EC$8.7 million which the Prime Minister said would be
financed through the sale of 200 acres of land. He said the lands
would be vested in a Government agency that will pay the proceeds
into the Consolidated fund. It is expected that the land will be
sold at EC$5.50 per square foot to interested nationals at home
and abroad in the first instance.
Reduction in payroll expenses
Mr Bird announced measures designed to reduce Government's payroll expenditures
by EC$23 million during the financial year. Among the measures are:
- no further employment apart from exceptional circumstances;
- the amalgamation and downsizing of government work programmes;
- retrenchment of non-established workers.
New Revenue measures
The Prime Minister also revealed new revenue measures which included:
- An increase in the rate of customs service tax from 5% to
10% on all goods except staple food items, medicines and petroleum
- A throughput levy of EC 10 cents to be paid by West Indies
Oil Company on each imperial gallon of gasoline, diesel, kerosene,
and liquid petroleum gas.
- A 3% tax on the gross profit of offshore banks, trusts and
- A 3% tax on the gross handle of Internet gaming, sports books
and virtual casinos.
- A 2% tax on outgoing transactions by Western Union.
- An increase in postal stamp rates.
Strengthened Tax Collection
Mr Bird stated that the Government's tax collection machinery is being strengthened
through computerisation, training and technical assistance from friendly
governments. He said that the Government of India has provided three tax
experts who will shortly be joined by others.
Priority for Spending
Identifying the priority areas for Government spending, the Prime Minister
said that a major allocation of the total expenditure will be devoted to education
and training. "The intellectual stock of our people is our greatest resource
in competing in the international community", Mr Bird said. He continued, "It
is vital that we continue to invest in their development".
Health, infrastructure development, public safety and tourism
marketing are other areas that attract large allocations from the
Standard of living high
In his introduction to the Budget statement, Prime Minister Bird pointed out
that Antigua and Barbuda enjoys a high standard of living. He quoted the
2001 report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which said, "Antigua
and Barbuda has a standard of living higher than the other independent members
countries of the Eastern Caribbean. Its per capita income in 2000 is estimated
to be US$9,300 nearly twice the Eastern Caribbean average."
Mr Bird also pointed out that the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) has listed Antigua and Barbuda at 38th of 173
nations on the Human Development Index. He said, "We share
this place with France, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands,
our region's former colonial masters and the architects of our
colonialism and exploitation". And, he asked, "Is this
not cause for satisfaction? Is it not cause for pride? Is it not
cause for us to resolve to do what is necessary to remain our own
masters, and not to slip into the clutches of economic dependence
and quasi colonial exploitation"?
Cost of development also high
The Prime Minister emphasised that the cost of the development that Antiguans
and Barbudans have enjoyed has also been high. He said Government had to
borrow excessively to repair the country five times after five hurricanes
in as many years. In addition, the Government has employed a large number
of persons to keep the rate of unemployment down and to maintain social stability
including a low crime rate. Despite these costs, the Government has also
continued a high investment programme in health and education. At the same
time, there has been massive tax avoidance and tax evasion by many persons
in the private sector. The result has been a two-tier economic society -
a rich private sector and a poor government. The Government has spent heavily
to provide the social and physical infrastructure from which the private
sector has grown increasingly wealthy, but the same private sector has failed
to play its part by paying its taxes, investing in the expansion of the economy
and providing increased employment.
"It is against this background that the Budget must be viewed",
the Prime Minister said. "We have arrived at the point where
if we are to continue to determine our own destiny, we have to
rely upon ourselves. As a people we have to be prepared to make
sacrifices, work harder, be more disciplined and contribute meaningfully
to the cost of the development we have so obviously enjoyed".
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Sanders speaks to Chamber
Antigua and Barbuda Chief Foreign Affairs Representative and
High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Sir Ronald Sanders, was
the guest Speaker at a luncheon seminar hosted by the Chamber of
Commerce and Industry on Tuesday, 27th March.
The Chamber invited Sir Ronald to speak on the subject of the
OECD's "harmful tax competition" scheme and its implications
for Antigua and Barbuda.
Sir Ronald has been Antigua and Barbuda's leading representative
on this issue and he is a member of a Joint Working Group comprising
OECD and non-OECD countries and organisations that has been trying
to negotiate a solution to the matter that threatens the economic
livelihood of 41 jurisdictions targeted by the OECD.
The Chamber's event attracted a record 165 persons including
leading lawyers and the captains of industry and commerce in the
In a speech, described by Everette Christian, the Chamber's Vice
President, as "important, significant and informative",
Sir Ronald laid out the background to the OECD scheme and the efforts
that have been made by non-OECD countries to resolve the issue
in a mutually beneficial way.
He explained that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development (the OECD) is not an international or ganisation and
has no legal authority to speak for the world or to establish rules,
norms or standards for any State except its own members. Nonetheless,
it is now dictating terms on what, in short, could be described
as cross border tax matters.
Sir Ronald said, "If targeted jurisdictions do not submit
to the OECD's terms, damaging sanctions will be imposed against
them". He described the scheme as "a form of neocolonialism
in which the OECD is attempting to dictate the tax economic systems
and structures of other nations for the benefit of the OECD's member
The High Commissioner was at pains to point out that the OECD
scheme is not about money laundering and financial crime. He explained
that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), along with the UN
Commission on money laundering, are the entities concerned with
Sir Ronald emphasised that Antigua and Barbuda was judged by
the FATF against 25 stringent criteria and found to be fully cooperative
in the fight against money laundering. He said that the OECD does
not want competition in taxation because their countries are the
highest taxed in the world.
"Their objection derives from the fact that, in a globalized
world, the mobility of financial and other services, such as shipping
and Internet gambling, provided an opportunity for States like
ours and posed a threat to them. Our low tax or no tax regimes
coupled with our literacy in English and good telecommunications
gave us an advantage with which many OECD countries could not compete",
Sir Ronald said.
The Antigua and Barbuda representative added, "Instead of
trying to vie with us by lowering their own taxes, the OECD responded
by demanding that we change our tax systems and structures or face
"These demands", he said, "are included in a Memorandum
of Understanding that the OECD has drafted and require all the
targeted jurisdictions to sign and implement. If the jurisdictions
were to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, it would be a virtual
unconditional surrender to the OECD, especially as none of them
would see the implementation plan until after they have signed."
Sir Ronald pointed out that there are several OECD countries
that are in breach of the "harmful tax competition" scheme,
and yet the OECD has not documented them, nor required the countries
to commit to change them.
The obvious OECD countries whose practices breach the "harmful
tax" requirements are Switzerland and Luxembourg. But, they
are not the only ones.
In its June 2000 report, the OECD lists eleven sanctions that
its member states intend to impose on the targeted jurisdictions
unless they submit to OECD demands by 31st July this year. In addition,
the report states quite clearly that OECD governments should determine
whether to direct non-essential economic assistance to the jurisdictions
and explore what other defensive measures can be taken, including
Sir Ronald revealed that discussions of a Joint Working Group
of non-OECD and OECD countries in the Joint Working Group have
reached a stalemate.
"The non-OECD members offered to sign a commitment letter
to the OECD agreeing to an implementation plan by 31st July next
year with completion by the end of 2005, provided we are admitted
as equal members of the OECD's Global Tax Forum where we would
contribute to a mutually acceptable definition of the three of
principles of non-discrimination, transparency and effective exchange
of information. We also wanted the right to be part of a team to
monitor the implementation plans in all countries, including OECD
States. The OECD members refused to allow us to participate in
the definition of the three principles and they rejected our participation
in monitoring all jurisdictions, including theirs, for compliance, " he
High Commissioner Sanders told the attentive Chamber of Commerce
audience, "We responded through a letter signed by Prime Minister
Arthur as Co-Chair of the Group. It stresses our willingness to
participate in further meetings of the Group to settle the matters
of equality of treatment and the right to be involved in monitoring
compliance of all countries including member states of the OECD.
We will now await their further response".
Speaking directly to the national audience, Sir Ronald said that
while the government will continue to work with the international
community on the issue, "here at home, we should draw on the
creative and intellectual strength of all to devise ways in which
we can ensure that we overcome the challenge of the OECD. This
why I have met twice with the Leader of the Opposition and members
of his party to brief them. This is not a partisan issue; it is
a national one and it requires a national response. The Chamber
of Commerce and all its members have a constructive role to play
in this process, and I urge you to play it to the fullest".
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Senator Michael says
Finance Ministers meeting very beneficial
and Barbuda's junior Finance Minister, Senator Asot Michael, has
said that a meeting of Finance Ministers of the Western Hemisphere
held in Toronto on the 3 and 4 April was "very beneficial".
Senator Michael said that the most important aspect of the Conference
was the opportunity to talk directly with the new US Treasury Secretary
Mr Michael disclosed that both Barbados' Prime Minister, Owen
Arthur, and Antigua and Barbuda's Senior Ambassador, Sir Ronald
Sanders, presented strong arguments countering a scheme by the
OECD claiming harmful tax competition from small states.
The Minister said that the new US Treasury Secretary listened
carefully leaving Caribbean jurisdictions some hope that the new
US Government may not support the OECD scheme as fully as the last
administration. Senator Michael also revealed that he and Sir Ronald
had the opportunity to talk to Mr O'Neil in the margins of the
meeting about the issue. He said they were both impressed by the
thoughtful way in which the US Treasury Secretary received their
The Finance Ministers of the Western Hemisphere gathered in Toronto
in part to prepare for the Summit of the Americas to be held in
Quebec City later this month.
Commenting on this aspect of the meeting, Senator Michael said
that his delegation to the meeting stressed the importance of financial
resources for the implementation of the Free Trade of the Americas
Mr Michael said, "countries in the Caribbean will find it
difficult to make the adjustments to their revenue-raising systems
unless machinery is put in place to compensate them for the loss
of revenue from lower tariffs and duties."
The Minister said, "My delegation made the point that while
a Free Trade area will benefit all the countries of the Americas,
the larger countries will benefit first with some dislocation in
the smaller ones. In this connection, compensatory machinery must
be put in place."
Mr Michael said he felt that both Ministers from the larger countries
as well as the financial Institutions, such as the InterAmerican
Development Bank and the World Bank, were alert to the point that
unless "aspirations were backed by resources, dreams would
The Antigua and Barbuda delegation, led by Senator Michael, included
Senior Ambassador with Ministerial Rank, Sir Ronald Sanders, and
Financial Secretary, Alphonse Derrick.
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prepares for Americas Summit
Community and Common Market (CARICOM) Government leaders go to
this month's Summit of the Americas in Canada with a plan of action
which they hope will be funded by international financial institutions.
Finance Ministers from the Caribbean and other Western Hemisphere
states, set the agenda for the April 20 to 22 summit during a preparatory
meeting which ended in Toronto on Wednesday 4 April.
Antigua and Barbuda's point man on financial services, Sir Ronald
Sanders, who attended that meeting, told CANA the ministers looked
at money laundering, regulation and supervision of the financial
sector, and the promotion of integration in the region, as well
as the mechanisms by which that can be achieved.
Sir Ronald said all these issues are tied into a proposed Free
Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), with which the coming summit
will deal. "... I think finance ministers recognise that it's
going to be very important for the Inter-American Development Bank,
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to put in place
mechanisms by which the decisions made at Quebec can attract funding
to ensure their implementation", the Antigua financial services
spokesman added. He said it is not certain that those funding mechanisms
are in place at the moment.
Sir Ronald indicated that the preparatory meeting has put the
leaders in a much better position to get closer to concluding a
Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement. "...We've had some
very good discussions on what has to happen if the Free Trade Area
of the Americas is to become a reality, the kinds of changes it
will require us to make, and the ways in which countries will have
to co-operate to facilitate the creation of the Free Trade Area
of the Americas", he added. He noted that particular emphasis
was placed on the smaller countries, such as those in the Caribbean,
which Sir Ronald said will need to make much greater changes than
the larger states.
"In the case of the Bahamas, for instance, they rely on
Government revenues on importation of items to the tune of 50 per
cent of their budget. If they are going to lose that money because
they have to lower tariffs or get rid of duties, they've got to
find some other way of replacing that...", he said.
Sir Ronald said there will have to be some kind of compensatory
mechanism to facilitate the integration of small countries to a
large free trade area with countries like the United States, Canada
The Antigua and Barbuda representative indicated that when the
Caribbean Heads of Government sit down to talk, they will also
be seeking assistance in strengthening their financial systems
and trade within a global market. The contentious issue of harmful
taxation competition is also expected to come up at the Quebec
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Prime Minister acts
decisively on Audit Report on Medical Benefits Scheme
Prime Minister Lester Bird has acted decisively on the Forensic
Audit Report on the Medical Benefits Scheme.
Mr Bird revealed on 30th March that he has received an Interim
Report on the Scheme and has sent it directly to the Director of
The Prime Minister said that the Interim Report, from Alan Joseph
who was commissioned by the Cabinet to conduct the Forensic Audit, "indicates
that there is cause for a examination of the issue by the Director
of Public Prosecutions."
The Prime Minister had publicly indicated that it would be irresponsible
to take any action on allegations of wrong doing at the Medical
Benefits Scheme unless there was a prima facie case of impropriety.
On this basis, Mr Bird had refused to be pushed into establishing
a Commission of Inquiry which was being demanded by the opposition,
United Progressive Party.
Prime Minister Bird said, "There is no need to waste time
and money on a Commission of Inquiry that would have to send its
findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions anyway. Therefore,
I am sending the report directly to the DPP for appropriate action."
The Prime Minister added, "This is no longer a matter for
politics; the legal system will deal with it."
Bird also disclosed that, based on the findings of the Forensic
Audit, he is writing to Health Minister John E St Luce instructing
that three senior members of the management staff at the Scheme
be suspended from duty pending examination of the issue by the
Director of Public Prosecutions. He has also instructed that the
present Board of Directors of the Scheme be dissolved and a new
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STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE LESTER B. BIRD PRIME MINISTER
On Monday 2nd April, 2001 the Prime Minister, Lester Bird, made the following
As you are aware on Friday 30th March, I sent to the Director
of Public Prosecutions (DPP) an Interim Report that I received
of a forensic audit of the Medical Benefits Scheme.
Since then, three basic questions have been raised.
These questions warrant attention.
The first question is why did I send the interim report to the Director of
Public Prosecutions instead of to the Police or to a Commission of Inquiry?
The reason is simply because both a Commission of inquiry and the Police would
ultimately have had to send their findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions
for his examination and institution of any legal proceedings that might be
A Commission of Inquiry has no power of prosecution. If such a Commission were
to be established, it would simply listen to evidence from interested parties
and write a report with recommendations.
Should any of the recommendations require prosecution, the Commission would
have to refer the matter to the DPP. A Commission of Inquiry does not itself
have any authority to institute criminal proceedings.
Therefore, by sending the interim report directly to the DPP, this lengthy
and costly process has been avoided.
I should emphasize that there is no magic about a Commission of Inquiry.
No Commission of Inquiry has any power to do anything more than to inquire
into a matter. At the end of its inquiry, should a Commission wish any legal
proceedings to be instituted, it would ultimately have to refer the matter
to the DPP.
A Commission of Inquiry has less power and authority than the laws of the state
and the judicial process. By placing the matter before the DPP, the full force
of the law has been invoked. The same arguments apply to the Police who would
also have to refer findings of any investigation to the DPP.
Now that the matter is in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions,
any member of the public, including those persons who have made allegations
of impropriety, can take their evidence to him for action.
In other words, the Leader of the Opposition, and others who have made claims
against Ministers and Officers of the Medical Benefits Scheme, can submit their
evidence to the DPP who is bound to take full account of such evidence in any
proceedings he deems to be appropriate.
No one is prohibited in any way from submitting such evidence.
I should also stress that the DPP has the authority to call upon the Police
to assist him fully in all aspects of his examination of the matter.
The second question that arises is: Why did I instruct the Minister of Health
to dissolve the present Board of Directors and to suspend three senior officers
from duty pending the outcome of the DPP's examination of the matter?
Again, the answer is quite simple. The content of the interim report is such
that no responsible person could do other wise. Indeed, had I not taken the
action that I have, I would have been justifiably criticized.
I am releasing the interim report to the media, and I am also sending copies
of it today to the Leader of the Opposition, the Christian Council and the
Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
It will be seen that the forensic audit says the following: "The
Chief Parmacist admitted that he independently selected vendors
for the procurement of pharmaceuticals. Some vendors were selected
even when the prices were 400% of the best available prices. Based
on the information gathered, it is apparent that the system of
procurement used by the Chief Pharmacist has caused the Scheme
to suffer considerable financial loss and moreover the absence
of competitive bidding and the lack of other rational explanation
lead us to conclude that the circumstances are indicative of impropriety
in the procurement of pharmaceutical products".
The interim report also says the following: "The audit also uncovered
highly questionable activities where the Accountant and the Superintendent,
without the approval of the Board of Directors, engaged a senior member of
the external audit firm in his private capacity to find ways to account for "significant
differences between the ending inventory per books and the balance per physical
count". Payment for this exercise was made to a non-existing company while
cheques were secured and processed by the senior auditor. This cost the Scheme
over three hundred thousand dollars".
Another section of the report states: "With regard to the procurement
of administrative supplies and equipment our audit revealed that approximately
$1.4 million were procured by the Superintendent between 1994 and 2000 through
Tropical World, a business owned and operated by the Superintendent. We consider
the activity of the Superintendent a conflict of interest and a high probability
of violation of Civil Service regulations". I am sure that you will agree
that this was information that required immediate action. Taking these findings
into account, the officers involved could not reasonably be left in their posts.
With regard to the dissolution of the Board of Directors, the audit report
contains the following statement: "Our audit revealed that the Board of
Directors failed to effectively exercise the responsibility assigned to them
by the Cabinet Ministers when appointed to serve as directors of the Antigua
and Barbuda Medical Benefits Scheme. As directors, they presided with great
indifference bordering on reckless disregard for the activities at the Medical
Benefits Scheme". Again, given the strength of such a statement by the
Auditors, I am sure you will agree that the Board of Directors could not reasonably
be left in place.
The third question that has been raised is the allegations made against Ministers
of the Government.
Let me say that so far I have received only an interim report of the Audit.
The Auditors have indicated that I will not receive a final report until mid-April.
However, in the interim report, there has been no suggestion by the Auditors
of any impropriety by Ministers.
The auditors are professional people who have a practice in the United States.
A condition of their license to operate is that they reveal impropriety or
risk the loss of their professional license if not prosecution. The auditors
have no reason whatsoever to place their professional integrity and livelihood
at risk to protect anyone. My Ministers have always stated that the allegations
made against them are false and baseless. I have always accepted the word of
my Ministers and I continue to do so. Until and unless there is any basis for
doing otherwise, they retain my full confidence.
I would also like to stress that any person, who has evidence of any impropriety,
has the right and the obligation to submit such evidence to the DPP for his
action. Failure to produce such evidence indicates that it does not exist and
that the allegations made against Ministers are nothing short of a political
campaign to smear their reputations and destabilize the Government.
Fellow Citizens, the work of the Auditors on the Medical Benefits Scheme has
pointed to several unacceptable practices. In the circumstances, I believe
that similar audits should be conducted of the Social Security Scheme and the
State Insurance Corporation to ensure that only best practices are followed
in these two institutions.
Consequently, I propose to recommend that they be similarly audited as soon
Finally, I repeat what I said last Friday: As I have done with the interim
report, I propose to send the final report on the Medical Benefits Scheme to
the DPP. I will also provide copies to the Leader of the Opposition, the Christian
Council and the Chamber of Commerce.
This matter is now one that should be determined by our Courts in full accordance
with the laws of our land. By sending it to the Director of Public Prosecutions,
we are ensuring that the full weight of the law and our juridical process is
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New Apostolic Nuncio
of the Holy See presents credentials
Excellency the Most Reverend Emil Paul Tscherrig, the new Apostolic
Nuncio of the Holy See, accredited to Antigua and Barbuda, presented
his credentials on 27th March to the Governor General Sir James
Carlisle and paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Lester Bird.
Through Ambassador Tscherrig, the Prime Minister urged the Pope
to use the moral authority to speak out on behalf of small states
on such issues as Global Warming, Reform of the WTO and OECD Harmful
Antigua and Barbuda established diplomatic relations with the
Holy See on December 15, 1986. His Excellency the Most Reverend
Emil Paul Tscherrig replaces His Excellency the Most Reverend Eugenio
Sbarbaro, and brings much experience to his new tour of duty, having
served in the Apostolic Nunciature in Uganda, Korea, Bangladesh
and finally in the Secretariat of State (Vatican City). In addition
to being Vatican Ambassador, the Most Reverend Emil Paul Tscherrig
is also the Apostolic delegate, the Pope's representative to the
Catholic Church in various countries.
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The Barbuda Peoples'
Movement (BPM) wins Local Government elections
The Barbuda Peoples' Movement (BPM) has won all five seats in
Local Government Elections held on Friday 23rd March.
The electorate had to choose between the incumbent BPM and the
Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (A&BLP).
The results are as follows:
Wendell Nicholas (BPM) 435 votes
Tyrone Beazer (BPM) 432 votes
Randolph Beazer (BPM) 430 votes
Fabian Jones (BPM) 406 votes
Hartford John (BPM) 398 votes
George Burton (A&BLP) 233 votes
Hesketh Daniel (A&BLP) 216 votes
John Thomas (A&BLP) 210 votes
David Shaw (A&BLP) 199 votes
Irvin Webber (A&BLP) 187 votes
There were 1060 registered voters of which 645 voted.
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gets increased overdraft facility
The Barbuda Council will now have more money at its disposal.
This follows a decision of the second meeting of the Joint Consultative
The JCC, which is a working committee recommended by the Commonwealth
Observer Team, comprises four members of the Barbuda Council and
a similar number from the central Government.
The meeting, at which Prime Minister Lester Bird was present,
looked at the question of the financial recommendations from the
Commonwealth Report, in relation to the government's financial
advances to the Barbuda Council.
"We agreed to increase the overdraft from $300,000 to $500,000," Prime
Minister Bird said.
The one-day meeting also addressed the practical implications
of the question of transfer of utilities to the Barbuda Council,
which was recommended by the Commonwealth Report.
Other matters were sent to a sub-committee, including the suggested
formula for Government to pay the Council for public works.
Chairman of the Barbuda Council, Arthur Nibbs, is pleased with
the increase of the bank overdraft. "I feel that would give
the Council some backup". The meeting, he said, actually adjourned
without any full-fledged discussions. However, the next meeting
will look at specific issues like Immigration and Customs in Barbuda.
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successful in enforcing seat belt laws
The police are reporting a successful start in enforcing the
use of seat belts in Antigua and Barbuda.
Officers from the Traffic Department were out in full force yesterday morning,
checking for persons in violation of the seat belt laws and other traffic offences.
Superintendent James Hill of the Traffic Department, says a few persons were
caught not wearing their seat belts and were warned. He also said the officers
observed that a number of children under the age of ten were also seen travelling
in the front seat of vehicles and is advising drivers to desist from this practice.
The police will be charging persons caught not wearing their seat belts or
those who are driving with children in the front of their vehicles. They are
therefore appealing to the driving public that now is the time to become more
aware of the SEAT BELT LAWS in Antigua and Barbuda.
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Minister Bird congratulates new St Vincent Prime Minister
Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister, Lester Bird, sent a letter
of congratulations to the new Prime Minister of St. Vincent and
the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, on his Unity Labour Party
(ULP) victory at the polls, in that country's General Election
held on the 28 March.
The letter which was sent via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Government and people
of Antigua and Barbuda, to offer you congratulations on the resounding
victory of your Unity Labour Party (ULP) in yesterday's general
election in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I also congratulate
you on your appointment as Prime Minister.
You have received a strong mandate from the people of St. Vincent
and the Grenadines to manage their affairs and, as your party assumes
the responsibilities of Government, I offer you the friendship
and full support of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. Please
accept, Prime Minister, my best wishes for a successful term of
St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Antigua and Barbuda have always
enjoyed a close relationship, and I hope that these bilateral ties
can be strengthened during your tenure. I look forward to working
with you in our regional councils of CARICOM and OECS as we face
together the development challenges of our region."
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Canadian Battleship, HMCS Iroquois visited Antigua and Barbuda
from 22 - 26 March.
The ship, a Destroyer in the Canadian Navy, is Canada's Task
Groups Flagship and is under the Command of Captain Cal Mofford.
The HMCS Iroquois, which has 30 officers and a crew of 230, is
currently in the Caribbean for combat readiness operations with
a multinational task force that includes ships from Belgium, Canada,
Germany and the United States.
Mofford paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister, Lester B. Bird
on Friday 23rd March. He also held discussions with Colonel Trevor
Thomas, Head of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF).
The Canadian Navy Brass also reviewed regional security issues
and Canadian military assistance to the ABDF and to the Regional
Security System. Canadian assistance includes information technology
training and the upgrading of the information technology training
facilities installed by Canada at Camp Blizzard in 1998.
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Carnival Queen contestants named
Six young ladies have been named to take part in this year's
Carnival queen show.
They are Tamisha Joseph, Nicole Thomas, Debra Allen, Ishina Michael, Wendy
Thomas and Teshena Marshall.
The show takes place on August 1st at Carnival city.
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34th Annual Antigua
Excerpted from the Antigua Hotels & Tourist
Sailing Week is now in its 34th year of existence. An increasing
number of yachts and boats from all over the world choose the ideal
Antiguan waters every April to renew old rivalries and strike up
new ones, as they make their bid for trophies and prizes.
To date, approximately 100 boats and boat companies have registered
interest in competing in Sailing Week 2001, the top regatta of
the Caribbean and numbered in the top 5 in the world. The Antigua
Sailing Week will be held from April 29 to May 5, 2001.
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Tourism campaign takes
of Antigua and Barbuda's tourism product has been given a new twist
The positive attributes of the twin island state are now being
shown off all over Britain's capital city in a "Taxi campaign."
Two London taxicabs have been specially painted to portray scenes
of beaches, boating and a woman sun bathing with the slogan "wouldn't
you prefer to be here?"
Both taxicabs operate all over London.
This is the first phase of a special tourism drive being undertaken
by the High Commission in London in an effort to raise the profile
of Antigua and Barbuda as a desirable Caribbean destination.
The second phase will see a similar campaign, this time using
buses and the underground.
It all leads up to a spectacular Caribbean Exhibition planned
for July in London in which all the Caribbean states are expected
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