Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Jaevion Nelson | Holness, Cabinet and the big picture

Published:Saturday | March 31, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has consolidated his hold over the Cabinet with a strategic reshuffle.

Andrew Holness is showing all his naysayers that he is a masterful and astute politician. His political moves over the last three years, including the recent Cabinet reshuffle, which, seemingly, has incited no public brawl within the party (as some expected), rubbish all that was said about him being unfit to lead the party and the country.

The Cabinet reshuffle has sparked some discussion about one of his many election promises : job descriptions and key performance indicators (KPIs) for members of his Cabinet. According to a news report in this paper on January 21, 2016, Holness said, "All ministers under the new Jamaica Labour Party will be given a job letter ... [which] has a timeline of two years and six months from the date of their appointment , with key performance targets, which are agreed upon by the Cabinet."

Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, we are yet to see these. While I don't think they are critical, I agree with my friend Krystal Tomlinson, the newly appointed president of the People's National Party (PNP) Youth Organisation, that there needs to be clarity from the PM on his intent to follow through with delivering KPIs for his ministers.

It would certainly be good if ministers had job descriptions (JDs) and KPIs, but beyond checking the box to say that it was done, I can't see how much value they will add to ensure good governance and effectiveness on the part of the Government. I am mindful as well that the fact that none has been publicised does not mean JDs and KPIs have never been issued.

The 'absence' of KPIs does not hinder us from actually holding the Government accountable and measuring how well they have been doing. I do, however, believe that we have all sorts of indicators that we can use to assess the Government's performance.

The Throne Speech, which was delivered by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen at the opening of Parliament, as well as Budget Debate presentations by the prime minister, finance minister and other ministers, indicates clearly, for the most part, what they intend to work on and what we should expect of them. We, the people, can take these and further develop our KPIs that we can use to assess how well they are doing.

Additionally, Vision 2030 - The National Development Plan also has specific goals, outcomes and indicators that we should all pay attention to and use to measure their performance (see http://devinfolive.info/dashboard/Jamaica_vision2030/index.php).

It is critical that we not lose sight of the fact that the performance of the Government does not depend only on the directive of a PM to his ministers, but on citizens playing our part as well. Note, I am not saying, we shouldn't ask for JDs and KPIs, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not the most critical thing (to me).

I am more interested in the restoration of law and order, the resuscitation of the shell-shocked urban areas, modernisation of government processes, job creation and employment, economic growth, and, importantly, focus on general well-being as promised by Holness in his message in the JLP's manifesto Partnership for Prosperity.

There is hardly any sustained advocacy about these critical things. Much of what I hear is banter. We should seek to strengthen citizen groups and build their capacity to hold government accountable based on the National Development Plan, not simply their election manifesto.

We cannot afford to fail in performing our duties as citizens with or without job descriptions and key performance indicators. Our lives depend on it. We can blame no one for our ineptitude.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV, and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.