ALL AH WE IS ONE: Reshuffle of uncertainty
By Prime Minister David Thompson’s own admission, one of his main concerns as he battles his illness is to ensure that instability is minimised. In this regard, his decision to announce his third Cabinet reshuffle since 2008 must have caused him particular discomfort, since a reshuffle suggests “mashing up” and rearranging.
In assessing the effectiveness of the reshuffle, therefore, a useful measuring stick is its furtherance of the goal of ensuring stability, particularly in relation to governance and economic development.
Viewed through such a lens, it is difficult to declare in the affirmative. In announcing the reshuffle, very little link was made between the repositioning of ministerial responsibility and the overcoming of the economic challenges facing the country.
Indeed, given the oft stated commitment by the new Minister of Finance to the creation of a “society” as distinct from an “economy”, concerns about the lacunae in economic management occasioned by the Prime Minister’s illness may persist. The reshuffle appears to have been motivated more by politics rather than by the objective economic challenges confronting Barbados.
Ironically, however, when judged as a political response, further instability appears to be on the horizon. Of particular concern is the extent to which the reshuffle disrupts the apparent future leadership trajectory which was signalled with the past and present appointment of Freundel Stuart as the Deputy Prime Minister.
The new Cabinet seems to have upset the usual batting line-up. Specifically, by placing the red meat of finance and economic development in Chris Sinckler’s hands, the Prime Minister has effectively problematised a smooth transition to the senior and tested deputy Freundel Stuart.
Barbados can now expect a period of political jostling to shift the party leadership more in line with that hinted by the reshuffle. The country can also expect a corresponding resistance from those who have been slighted by the new arrangements. Loyalties are therefore set to unravel, and the business of Government is set to take a back seat to politicking.
Indeed, on the very night of the reshuffle the country was confronted with the possibility of the former Minister of Economic Affairs resigning from the Cabinet. Despite his deference to better judgement, a new material reality of open disgruntlement, resentment, disaffection, and split loyalties, has manifested itself within the DLP, in a context where unity is paramount.
The pursuit of stability would have seen the Prime Minister shedding his workload through the transfer of Finance to the Minister of Economic Affairs and would have seen a reaffirmation of Stuart as the undisputed deputy and Acting Prime Minister whenever necessary. This would have signalled continuity, rather than change.
Instead, the reshuffle has brought internal politics to the fore where a focus on effective administration is demanded. The instability of the Prime Minister’s illness has now been reshuffled towards the instability of internal political rivalry. Managing change now competes with managing the country.
• Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus specialising in analysis of regional affairs.