The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has announced that she will reshuffle her Cabinet and gave as her reason, improving the efficiency of government operations.
This is a most worthy objective, although we are not unmindful that the reshuffle is prompted by the political fallout from the firing of Mr Jack Warner, his resignation from Parliament and chairmanship of her party, and his re-election to the House, by a massive majority in a constituency which has traditionally been a safe seat for her party.
The politics aside, a Cabinet reshuffle in any country is not likely to improve government operations. The experience across a wide range of states supports this conclusion.
Rearranging the cards in a deck is merely trying to spin straw into gold because the cards remain the same. Shuffling the pack of the same people can only result in marginal, if any, change for the better. Such improvement would arise if the appointed ministers are in slots better suited to him than their previous ministry. The experience is that an ineffective minister does not improve by moving to another ministry.
New and talented people would have to be introduced to replace the proven failures. But this never happens on a sufficient scale to make a difference. At best, one or two new people are introduced, but they are not necessarily competent individuals.
The current finance minister in Trinidad is probably an exception to this generalisation because he is not a politician, but a professional with a proven track record.
Introducing proven performers can improve a Cabinet and a government's effectiveness. But that solution requires restricting the selection of party faithful and aspirants to the Executive.
The prospect of a merit-based selection of Cabinet members is made almost impossible when there is a coalition of parties. The more parties, the more difficult the task.
The efficiency and effectiveness of a government cannot be improved by focusing only on the tip of the iceberg, as three-quarters of any governance structure is below the surface.
Government operations can only be improved by extending the redeployment of human resources beyond the composition of the Cabinet. Even more important is to weed out the coterie of party parasites feeding on the government, in particular those in overseas posts.
Those taken out of the Cabinet for unsatisfactory performance must, like anybody who is fired, find employment elsewhere. They should not be moved around to different ministries.
Failure to do this sends a signal that once the person is a party member or activist they will be fed, regardless of performance.