Approval and Mixed reactions to Cabinet changes

Jamaica Observer:  

CABINET changes announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday were greeted with acceptance by political commentator Shalman Scott and scepticism by the People’s National Party (PNP), whose chairman, Fitz Jackson said the Opposition was less than hopeful the move will bring about the change that the country needs.

Jackson, the Opposition spokesman on national security, while congratulating the newly appointed and reassigned ministers, said that if the prime minister had been serious about the country’s business some reassigned ministers would have been sacked.

“I want to congratulate the newly appointed ministers and I hope that those who have been reassigned will seek to do the best they can. Their respective successes will be to Jamaica’s benefit. However, I don’t think there is much to be hopeful for, given the case of those who were in other ministries before, and so I look forward to them doing better,” Jackson told the Jamaica Observer.

“If the shuffle by the prime minister is about improving governance I would have expected him to act in his shuffling to deal with the person responsible for the blunder with the used cars. I would have loved to see him act with regards to the $600-million bushing programme. I would expect him to shuffle reflecting the blunder with the wage negotiations and the disrespect accorded to the various public sector groups. That [would be] a shuffle that reflects a fixing of those failures,” Jackson added.

In contrast, Scott described the Cabinet shuffle as “prudent”, noting that the timing is apt as the Government approaches the halfway mark of its constitutional term.

Five Cabinet ministers, including Minister of Finance and the Public Service Audley Shaw, and five junior ministers are affected by the changes to the Cabinet.

Shaw will be replaced by recently elected Member of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew North Western Dr Nigel Clarke, a business executive who has also served as deputy chairman of the Government’s Economic Growth Council and was a Jamaica Labour Pary (JLP) senator between 2013 and 2015.

However, Clarke will retain the support of former minister of state in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Fayval Williams, who has been promoted to minister without portfolio in that ministry.

Former trade union leader Rudyard Spencer, who was also a minister of state in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, has been shifted to the Ministry of National Security.

Shaw, who returned to the island yesterday after attending an annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in Argentina, is to move to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries.

Current Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda has been shifted to the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, where he will replace former Minister without Portfolio Dr Horace Chang, and join the other minister without portfolio, Daryl Vaz.

The other major shift was that of Robert Montague, the minister of national security, to the Ministry of Transport and Mining, replacing veteran parliamentarian Mike Henry, who has been shifted to the Office of the Prime Minister to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of former MP for St Andrew North Western Derrick Smith.

Dr Chang, the general secretary of the ruling JLP and veteran MP who represents one of the most vulnerable constituencies in violence-hit St James, has been shifted to the Ministry of National Security.

It is expected that most focus will be on the performances of Clarke and Chang over the next few months as the country continues to grapple with the twin demons of anaemic growth, and crime and violence.

Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, whose training in criminal law and prosecutions was clearly an asset to former national security minister Montague, has been shifted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, where he will join the substantive minister and his Senate colleague, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.

Two of the ruling party’s most promising young MPs — Alando Terrelonge (St Catherine East Central) and Xavier Mayne (St Ann South Western) — have been appointed ministers of state.

Terrelonge will be joining Olivia “Babsy” Grange at the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, while Mayne will join another female minister, Shahine Robinson, at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

Yesterday, Scott argued that in 2016, when the Government took office, Holness would not have been adequately aware of everyone’s ability. However, he said that the prime minister is now “fully in tune” with the talents around him.

“What the Cabinet shuffle does, two years later, is to introduce the benefit of hindsight and a greater knowledge of the entire team and what they are capable of; inclinations or the lack thereof. So the benefit of hindsight is what is the catalyctic factor that the prime minister had in the changes he made,” Scott said.

Scott said that he agrees with the decision to reassign Shaw, noting that industry and commerce is where he started his career. He also said that he was expecting Johnson Smith to be reassigned, but said that the additional assistance from “the promising” Charles Jr will serve to bolster the ministry, given her workload.

He said that he welcomes the move to assign Dr Chang to the national security portfolio, noting that he can wear just about any hat.

“Dr Chang has an experienced political hand, and my personal opinion is that he should have been made the deputy prime minister to take off some of the pressure off of the prime minister. However, what the prime minister has done is to increase his responsibility and, therefore, I suppose the objective of taking off some of the pressure off of him, Holness, will still be achieved by the route he has taken,” Scott noted.

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