ON REFLECTION: My Cabinet shake-up
It is time for Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to finally create his own Cabinet.
Since the last reshuffle by late Prime Minister David Thompson, six months have passed. We’re almost halfway into 2011, and with a general election due by 2013, it is time for Stuart to forge his own vision, not with fancy talk or even elections, but by a Cabinet shake-up.
When Stuart speaks next, it should be with the sole intention of stamping his authority on this Government.
If Stuart’s style portrays the strong and silent type, then his actions must speak even more loudly – not through seemingly orchestrated interviews with the state-owned media but via a no-nonsense approach to putting his ministers in the most effective positions and removing or retaining who need to be, without consideration of who was a “Thompson boy” or “girl”.
His decisions should also be geared toward investment, since the buzzword, which he endorsed, is “entrepreneurship”.
Those loyal to him will feature in the imminent reshuffle, but he also has to balance loyalty with efficiency. He is in a good position to see those who have made an impact in their portfolios and those who have been mere bodies.
So here’s my proposed shake-up – since the Prime Minister stays far from the word “reshuffle” – for Stuart’s Cabinet.
He should remain as Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, while keeping Adriel Brathwaite as Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs.
Chris Sinckler, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, should remain. Though one of Thompson’s “stars”, this should not be held against him. His first Budget last December has triggered economic growth despite the talk of propaganda.
Also, as Barbados peeks from behind the cloud of recession, messing with this ministry would send the wrong signal.
Dr David Estwick should be given the portfolios of Labour and Investment. These go hand in hand, since any gains – and fallouts which could lead to self-employment and entrepreneurship – will redound to growth; and having shadowed the Ministry of Finance while in Opposition, followed by a short stint in Economic Affairs, he seems likely to fit this mould.
Notably, this mixed ministry could encompass local and foreign investment, as well as trade and commerce.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Small Business Development better suits Denis Kellman, who has paid his dues. To my mind, it would also reflect healing after the “bad old days”, as well as a sense of confidence in a loyal Member of Parliament whose seat is one of the safest.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy seems to have the ability of more than a mere “ceremonial” minister. Tourism has held its own under his watch, with unexpectedly high numbers in the British market and the creation of a new market in Brazil.
He now needs another challenge. So I suggest pairing Tourism with Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. And if he becomes too busy with the latter, which entails regular travel, then a Parliamentary Secretary in tourism could be added.
While that addition to the Cabinet may be unaffordable at his time, a “junior” tourism minister could replace the unnecessary posts of parliamentary secretaries in the Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Economic Affairs – particularly the latter since there would be two ministers in Finance, Economic Affairs and Investment.
Minister of Housing and Lands Michael Lashley has done arguably well in housing. Whether he has become passionate about housing or too sensitive is another matter, but it’s time for a change, and he should be given a try in the Ministry of Transport (including Aviation) and Works.
Current Minister of Transport John Boyce would be a direct swap with Lashley, while remaining Leader of the House.
For the Environment, Drainage and Water Resource Management, Senator Maxine McClean, whose stint in Foreign Affairs has been less than flattering, would be my choice.
The other option would be to swap her with Barbados Water Authority executive chairman Arni Walters.
The Prime Minister should send four ministers to the back of the class, and not necessarily because of failure:
• Denis Lowe. He should be given time to regain full fitness, with the possibility of assisting in Labour and mediation, in light of his counselling experience.
• George Hutson. His International Transport and International Business portfolios would fall under Transport and Investment.
• Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo. She has made little impact in Family, Youth and Sport, or Labour.
• Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Steve Blackett. He can be replaced by Benn, with Commerce and Trade being under Investment.
Minister of Health Donville Inniss should remain. Though the issue of non-nationals having to pay for health care won’t earn him any stripes, the fallout is not enough to erase his achievements thus far nor his vision for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Stephen Lashley also deserves to keep his place, having given new energy to Family, Sport and Youth. Culture, however, is suffering, since implementation of plans for the cultural industries look remote.
Ronald Jones, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, has literally become the face of education, and his loyalty and seniority remain undoubted; so he should remain.
Senator Harry Husbands should be shifted to Parliamentary Secretary, Labour and Investment; while Patrick Todd and Senators Darcy Boyce and Irene Sandiford-Garner could be untouched.