The prime minister's new-look Cabinet is more like warmed-over soup that has been lying in the refrigerator for four days. Its original taste has gone, but you are being told to remember how it tasted when it was first served.
Cabinet reshuffles are largely window dressing exercises intended to impress the public that you have heard their criticisms and you are doing something about them. They are largely political in nature, do not achieve much and, in many instances, are no different from moving around chairs on the Titanic or moving around pieces on a chess board with the hope that the game can be remarkably altered in one's favour.
One of the most significant changes in the reshuffle is the separation of the Ministry of Agriculture from the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce. The Ministry of Agriculture has once again been given its own independent identity. This is critical, especially at this time when food security is so indispensable to the well-being of the society. I am disappointed that having rehabilitated Floyd Green, as some of us had urged, he was not returned to that ministry. Green had embarked energetically on a number of initiatives which, if pursued, could have borne significant fruit.
One does not know the bona fides of Minister Pearnel Charles Jr with regard to the agriculture portfolio, and how much he will be able to move the dial in a positive way. Being new to the portfolio, we have to wait and see what he will bring to the ministry. But bringing a new person to sit astride innovative changes, which he may or may not indulge, strikes me as not being the wisest move or the best use of available resources. But, as I said, we will see.
The newly created Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs is a clear indication that the prime minister is seized of the need for legislative and constitutional reform. Those who believe that constitutional reform can wait because people are now only preoccupied with bread-and-butter issues, do not see the correlation between strong, accountable governance and the denial of people of real opportunities to earn their bread in a fair and just manner.
I am not sure that we needed a new ministry to accomplish this, but the prime minister, perhaps, wanted to give the matter the weight it deserves.
Undoubtedly, there is bound to be overlapping of functions between the Ministry of Justice and this new ministry, especially in the area of legislative reform. Careful study must be done to ensure that there is not a fight for turf between the Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck and his new counterpart at legal affairs, Marlene Malahoo Forte.
With new ministers of portfolio being added to the prime minister's office, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation has got more top-heavy and unwieldy. From a distance it seems to be a Cabinet within a Cabinet with the prime minister sitting on top of the heap, quite unsure of what direction to take this behemoth. It is clear that the country has yet to grasp the reason for the existence of this ministry and whether its humongous stature has given the country the best bang for its buck.
Since those who operate from this office are “without portfolio”, one would think that the prime minister is the de facto minister and 'ministers' who operate from there are under his watchful gaze. If this is so, what time does a prime minister have to execute his already large and demanding portfolio? Just asking.
There are those who believe that Dr Horace Chang should have been retired from the portfolio of national security. I do not share that view. His performance in the portfolio has not been sterling but neither has been that of his predecessors. The national security portfolio is a tough and demanding one in which political careers tend to be sullied, if not die.
The complicated nature of fighting crime in Jamaica cannot be managed like a game of musical chairs in which people are fired and replaced with others, who will go into the same pit without the necessary resources to do a good job.
Dr Chang has beefed up the intelligence-gathering capability of the police and has refurbished the dilapidated living quarters of many police facilities. But he also needs to urge his Government to engage foreign help in undertaking greater intelligence-gathering, especially in dismantling gangs and ferreting out crimes that are aided, abetted, and perpetrated by certain “untouchables” in the society. As I have said repeatedly in this column, Israel may be a good place to start.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books Finding Peace in the Midst of Life's Storm and Your Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.