Wed | Sep 20, 2017

JLP Cabinet will have no honeymoon

Published:Wednesday | March 9, 2016 | 3:00 AM
Ann-Marie Vaz snaps photographs of husband Daryl and other members of the Holness executive at King's House on Monday.

While voters have calmed down from the political fervour of the campaign and the elections, Prime Minister Andrew Holness knows that at the heart of the recent change of government was a dissatisfaction and impatience where the people saw themselves as subservient to the government meeting macroeconomic targets.

As far as significant numbers of the people were concerned, their immediate needs had to be brought more into focus, even as IMF tests were being passed. The JLP's $1.5-million no-tax package was that immediate fix.

The electorate has radically altered the accepted paradigms, has given the PNP its historic first-term defeat, and, though quieter than a week or so ago, the people are expecting the arrival of those plums promised.

Now that PM Holness has named his Cabinet, one of his concerns would have been a better space for him had the JLP picked up an additional four or five seats. While that could be so, I cannot see any other Cabinet much different to the one selected.

Audley Shaw had to return to Finance, and that acceptance had to have more than its fair share of pure political considerations. Shaw's first duty is in crafting the fiscal space for the delivery of that tax-free package. He will also have learnt from his first time out that his ministry will not have much latitude for political adventures.

To many, the shocker would be Bobby Montague as head of the perennially troubled National Security. The problem with Montague is a perception that he is arrogant and even coarse, one that stands about 180 degrees from reality. He's fairly young, healthy, eager and quite capable of building a structure of action, understanding and cooperation with the security forces.

We would be foolish to expect that violent crimes will suddenly dip because of the JLP win, and Montague as minister of national security. He should, however, bear in mind that just six months from now he will be considered as failing if the numbers remain where they are or show increases.

 

DEVELOPED STATUS

 

Chris Tufton as minister of health is a critical move. Apart from long-term cracks in the delivery of institutional health care, there are threats in the form of the pending arrival of ZIKV and a more than two dozen swine flu infections, four of them fatal. Tufton has the ability to promote the structural framework to manage those matters while bringing our health care closer to developed status should he be allowed two terms.

All eyes will be on the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, which will be headed by the PM himself. Working with him will be a curious mix of ministers, with the high-energy Daryl Vaz along with the more sedate Derrick Smith and Dr Horace Chang.

Vaz is the perfect link man to the big players in the private sector in Jamaica. He needs to coordinate his efforts with Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce and Science and Technology as the team seeks to make Jamaica an ideal place for foreign investment.

A significant part of what makes a political administration a failure is the sheer laziness of some ministers. Those are the ones who go to the ministries and simply go through the motions of what the professional staff led by a PS takes as its bare minimum effort. Development of new policies and poor management of established ones are usually areas of failures of those ministers.

The exclusion of an environment minister has one of two meanings. The first is, the JLP does not care to place too much stress on the environment, which I do not believe, or all of its ministries have an unsaid understanding of the protection of the environment where it intersects with the specific ministry.

Again, in this scenario, joined-up government has to be the standard approach.

With 18 ministers and the attorney general, plus four state ministers, the JLP Cabinet is a shade smaller than the 20 members who made up the previous PNP administration. Tuesday's STAR newspaper put Holness' Cabinet as $40 million lighter.

At this stage, the numbers are totally insignificant. What should be of utmost concern is the effectiveness of the ministers and the efficiency levels of the ministries.

A few months ago, a permanent secretary told me that in his ministry alone, there were about 200 people who could be sent home and their absence would not in any way affect efficiency. He even suggested that their absence would be beneficial.

Soon I expect we will hear from Finance Minister Shaw about that planned public-sector transformation.

- Mark Wignall is a political analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and observemark@gmail.com.