Priority # 1 Better Working Conditions

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The newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Samantha Marshall, said her top priority in taking over the ministry is to resolve the problem of poor working conditions for employees in several departments within the ministry.

Marshall met on Tuesday with heads of division within the ministry as well as other staff representatives to discuss the challenges faced by the staff of the ministry. According to the minister improving working conditions is critical as the ministry seeks to realise the government’s vision of having the agricultural sector make a greater contribution to the nation’s economy. She said poor working conditions lead to decreased output.

“My main priority is to work assiduously towards improving the work environment for the staff as currently some departments are operating from temporary locations while others are in a serious state of disrepair,” she disclosed. The minister identified the veterinarian division, the Plant Protection Unit as well as the Dunbars Agricultural Stations as among the departments that need immediate repairs. In fact, she noted that the veterinarian unit is currently operating from temporary quarters.

Tuesday’s meeting was well attended with representatives from the fisheries division, the extension division, the chemical processing laboratory, the pesticides unit, the Central Marketing Division, plant protection as well as the director of agriculture, Sharon Edwards.

Marshall said she plans to hold urgent discussions with the Ministry of Public Works to discuss in detail a schedule for the commencement of work for the various departments in her ministry.

She also plans to do a physical ‘walk-through’ of the departments so that she may get a first-hand account of the scope of the repairs that are needed.

Asked how she plans to manage her new responsibilities with her previous portfolio of Minister of Social Transformation and Human Resources Development, Marshall said it is her intention to spend time equally in both ministries.

Additionally, the minister indicated that she intends to approach the task as effective teamwork involving herself as minister and the department heads and other technicians within both ministries.

Marshall is no stranger to the agriculture portfolio as she served as junior minister in the ministry from 2014 to 2018 when Arthur Nibbs was the senior minister.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Hon. Gaston Browne, has appointed Barbuda Senator, Knacyntar Nedd to serve as the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, effective Wednesday, January 22, 2020.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister said the many responsibilities of the newly-appointed Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Samantha Marshall, require that the Minister be provided competent assistance in the performance of her new duties, the Prime Minister explained. The Antigua and Barbuda Constitution contemplates this likely outcome, and provides for Parliamentary Secretaries to provide assistance to a Minister.

Senator Knacyntar Nedd became a public figure when she was elected to the Barbuda Council. She was subsequently appointed to the Senate by the Prime Minister, under Section 28(6) which allows for a resident of Barbuda to be selected by the Prime Minister. The Senator is pursuing a Degree at the UWI Fourth Landed Campus. She is the mother of one child.

Senator Nedd will confer with the Cabinet on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, and begin exercising her authority on Monday, January 27, 2020.