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Paul ‘not asked’ to be backup

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

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GOVERNMENT backbencher James Paul yesterday fought to put to bed rumours that he had been approached as an alternative Minister of Agriculture.
Rumours had been swirling across the country ever since ailing Prime Minister David Thompson reshuffled his Cabinet Thursday night, shifting DrDavid Estwick from Economic Affairs to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The move reportedly triggered an initial angry response from Estwick, who subsequently announced late Friday that he would accept the portfolio after all.
When contacted by the SUNDAY SUN yesterday, Paul denied reports that he had been placed on standby by the Prime Minister in case Estwick had opted to resign.
“I don’t know of any of these things. This is news to me. As far as I am aware, there is no problem,” Paul said.
 When pressed, he insisted that no one had approached him to be Minister of Agriculture.
“I really can’t speak to those reports. I am hearing about these things  but I really can’t speak to them . . . my phone has been busy all day but nothing like that has happened.”
Paul, who is chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), said he had no hard feelings about not being given the responsibility to head Agriculture.
“Whoever is there, we have to give them the necessary support,” said Paul, adding that he was willing to play a supporting role and give advice where necessary.
He also highlighted the farming sector as one of the immediate priority areas for attention, but said he was not about to second-guess the Prime Minister’s decision to switch Senator Haynesley Benn from Agriculture to the Ministry of Commerce and Trade.
 “I don’t know what the Prime Minister had in mind. All I am saying is that we [the farming community] are willing to give support to the minister, whoever he may be, in terms of the work that he has to do. That is something that has never changed.”
Moreover, Paul was of the view that Chris Sinckler had the qualities to be a successful Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs – a portfolio he now holds following Thursday’s Cabinet reshuffle.
“I know Chris well and he is talented. This is an opportunity for him, and I am confident that with the necessary support he has the capacity to do the job. (KJ)