The Throne Speech is often used as an opportunity to highlight the government’s achievements in the past parliamentary year, but it also outlines projections and plans for the year ahead.
Governor General Sir Rodney Williams used the delivery of the speech on Friday, during a special sitting in Parliament, to identify major plans.
In Agriculture, Sir Rodney announced the government’s intent to propel agriculture above the 3 per cent of the economy that it now contributes through the doubling of its output, a target it hopes to achieve through the People’s Republic of China, which has lent several specialists.
The specialists are already “imparting new skills and techniques to a cadre of farmers” according to the Governor General.
The announcement comes as the government notes that 90 per cent of the food Antiguans and Barbudans consume is imported.
“My Government is pleased to report that agricultural output is beginning to rise, such that Antigua and Barbuda is self-sufficient in egg-production. More than $100 million dollars are still spent annually on importing different meats,” Sir Rodney added.
The government is also planning to increase avenues for land and home ownership in the new year.
“More than 500 new houses and incomplete homes have been delivered to new homeowners, since 2014,” the Governor General said. “My Government promises more new homes to come and thanks the National Housing, the CHAPA and the persistent Minister for responding effectively to an insatiable demand.”
In reporting on the sister-isle of Barbuda, it was noted that 20 new homes have already been delivered to needy families who lost their homes in Hurricane Irma.
He added that scores of homes and the Hanna Thomas Hospital have been refurbished in Codrington with the partial assistance of international partners.
“The European Union plans to hand over 80 more homes to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for the benefit of more of Barbuda’s needy families. The People’s Republic of China will build another 100 hurricane-resilient homes on the edge of Codrington,” Sir Rodney stated.
Plans are also underway for the establishment of a new town for the sister-isle, which is expected to be powered by renewable energy.
While an exact location was not given for the development of the new town, it was said to be designed by a Barbudan architect and placed on a higher plane to avoid flooding during storms and hurricanes.
The Queen’s representative also hinted at a busy legislative year with new laws governing public health facilities to be introduced to set standards for nursing homes, clinics, and private hospitals.
The much talked about National Health Insurance scheme is also expected to be introduced in 2021, along with a new Fire and Building Code to govern the erection of new buildings.
The full implementation of the Criminal Prosecution Service is also planned to be completed in 2021.
The Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, the Labour Code, and the nation’s Maritime Laws are all expected to be amended during the upcoming months in order to improve the legislations.
“It is also my Government’s intention to enact new legislation to protect the children, young girls, boys, and women in danger of domestic violence,” the Governor General added.
According to Sir Rodney, the government is also committed to providing new investment opportunities with a commitment to make 10 per cent of the government’s shares in the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC) allowing for the “average worker” to become investors come February.
“My Government encourages every household in Antigua and Barbuda to purchase those shares, knowing that the benefits of ownership in WIOC will redound to generations. Later in 2021, my Government will commence arrangements that will eventually lead to the sale of shares in State Insurance Company,” the head of state added.