Op-Ed: Is It Time For a Cabinet Reshuffle in Jamaica?

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - February 14, 2014

By David Rowe
Op-Ed Contributor

THE JAMAICA OBSERVER newspaper recently reported Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller indicating that there would be no cabinet reshuffle in Jamaica in the near future.

This may not be very good news for the country, however, as there is a growing unease about the general lack of economic activity, the weakness of the Jamaican dollar, and the lack of employment opportunity for young, educated people in Jamaica.

All of these issues are symptomatic of a larger problem: ministerial inefficiency.

Nobody expects a midterm general election, but certainly something can be done to improve the efficiency of the government.

According to law, Jamaica’s Prime Minister may require a Minister to resign from the cabinet at any time and for any reason that she sees fit. The Prime Minister is supposed to have substantial control over the personnel of central government.

She can choose, switch, promote, demote, and discard her cabinet colleagues. If she so wishes, she can place her colleagues in an informal order of seniority. The Prime Minister also determines when Cabinet can meet and what can and shall not be discussed at Cabinet meetings.

The Prime Minister is also entitled to say what executive issues shall be referred to her personally for decisions outside of the Cabinet.

The view of some is that the Cabinet is too large and unwieldy, with too many ministries to operate efficiently. Should there really be a Ministry of Justice and a Ministry of National Security, which are separate?

Should the Ministry of Youth and the Ministry of Sports be separate? Why are the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Local Government separate? Is there even a need for a Ministry of Local Government in such a small country?

Would the union of some of these ministries lead to strengthening of the efficiency of government, as occurred with the portfolios of Tourism and Entertainment, for example?

The Prime Minister is still very popular, although some of her ministers are viewed by some as lightweights and ineffective. Their apparent inability to perform may lead to a dwindling of the Prime Minister’s popularity.

I recently wrote in this newspaper that the Jamaican government needed to ensure that it traveled more efficiently. The government’s seeming lack of self control in choosing the number of delegates for foreign trips is a symptom of this wider problem of inefficiency.

Too many people traveling abroad, too many ministries, too many mistakes.

Plainly, Jamaica’s government needs to get lean.

The Prime Minister still commands a great deal of confidence and popularity as leader. Her performances on the floor of Gordon House are vigorous and encouraging, but no matter how versatile, able and dynamic the Prime Minister is, she must have competent officials and advisors around her.

It may well be, however, that an immediate cabinet reshuffle may be in nation’s best interest.

David P Rowe is an attorney in Jamaica and Florida and an adjunct law professor at the University of Miami School of Law in Coral Gables, Fla.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

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