Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Orville Taylor | Prosperity Cabinet?

Published:Sunday | April 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen cheers on Nigel Clarke as he displays his instrument of appointment after being sworn in as minister of finance and the public service last week.

I wanted to write about the importance of resurrection in Christendom but that got reshuffled.

Two weeks after receiving an F grade for the crockery in the Cabinet, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has acted decisively. Moving away from the inherited Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), he is taking full possession and showing 'ownness'. In fact, were it not for the few geriatrics in the driver seat of ministries, one would be justified in calling it by a more modern name rather than the antediluvian piece of furniture that Grandma used to have.

While his detractors have been twiddling their thumbs, Holness has been playing masterful strokes of chess. We now see the fire behind the smoke when he spat in the face of tradition and gave Derrick Smith, a man who was Labourite before he was born, the send-off that he feared. Smith had somehow thought that his endorsement of his son, Duane, would have sufficed to preserve the Smith dynasty. Alas, it was not to be, and Dr Nigel Clarke, a man with a thermometer of degrees, easily beat off challenger Keisha Hayle, who never seemed to be spellbound by him or anything that the script wrote.

On paper, Clarke is one of the few finance ministers in the history of this country who has academic qualifications totally relevant to the position.

True, he does sound like an 'Afro-Saxon', and even his patois sounds unnatural. Call a spade a spade, black royalty or not.

Nevertheless, we have experimented with social anthropologists, unsuccessful businessmen, lawyers and academics who have had no direct experience in the area. A Rhodes Scholarship among his many achievements, he has also demonstrated that he can cross the bridge between theory and praxis, having built up a solid resume in the private sector.

With the possible exception of Delroy Chuck before being called to the Bar, Clarke is the brightest man to have graced a JLP Cabinet.

His appointment to the second highest position in the House of Representatives now makes mockery of another PhD's remarks about Holness' discomfort with bright people being close to him.

Lions have stripes, and the movement to the Ministry of Mombasa Grass and Deep Fisheries is not a demotion for Audley Shaw, who now adds lots of bull to his shift. Even spin doctor par excellence Robert Nesta Morgan couldn't keep a straight face when trying to justify.

Although the senior citizen quintet seemed untouchable, Holness has made some bold moves. Taking a back seat is now the ageless Lester Michael Henry, who no longer has transport.

And to that ministry comes, the most popular politician by votes in 2016, Robert St Aubyn Montague. He clamoured for more power to intervene in police operations. Given that so many of his former charges are working alongside the Transport Authority and Island Traffic Authority, he might feel familiar waters.

Most important, having showed his expertise in procuring vehicles for addressing the transportation needs of the police, Montague is a shoo-in for his new portfolio. Already he is announcing major expenditure on the Ian Fleming Airport, which we hope won't be a fly-by-night scheme.

As for Henry, I am not quite sure what as, minister without portfolio, he will now do. But I bet that it is multimodal.

Equally surprising is the removal of paleo-Labourite Karl Samuda from the position Shaw now occupies, to green pasturelands in the prime minister's office. Doubtless, this is a changing of the guard, although it is also seen as 'Man a Yard' being given a barnyard. Yet, it is indeed true that Shaw can bring his expertise and umbrella view of the economy to guide the processes in the super ministry. Inasmuch as it does not carry the prestige of finance, if Shaw, the consummate salesman, sells it right, he might be a boon for the Government.

 

Gender insensitive

 

Critics have lamented that the reshuffle is gender insensitive, despite an infusion of young talent. Well, Fayval Williams, a graduate-trained financial professional, who was sent to clean up the mess created by Shaw and his former deputy, Rudyard Spencer, is now minister without portfolio, a promotion. Moreover, still anchored in her position is Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, who has a super ministry that incorporates culture, sport, entertainment and gender. Adorning the breakfront is Alando Terrelonge, an attorney with a master's degree in international relations.

Although he has no pedigree in behavioural sciences, there is something intangible about this very intelligent young man that makes me believe that he will be well suited for the job, and if he puts his head down, he succeed in this endeavour. His understanding of international law should help Grange and the technocrats of the ministry in their interpretation of UN and ILO conventions.

Nevertheless, the boldest move of all is the appointment of veteran politician Horace Chang as national security minister. We might be forgiven for thinking that he is older than his 65 years, because he has been an active politician since the 1970s. And that is precisely where the challenge lies. Like all of the other fogeys, he cannot claim distance from the genesis of the criminality in this country, which history and social sciences have pointed to.

Furthermore, it is Chang's constituency and parish that have given the security forces the biggest difficulties regarding the recent growth spurt of the crime monster. Hopefully, he will be able to give the police the kind of insight needed while keeping himself electable.

 

Twofold remit

 

His remit is twofold. First, he must convince the police and citizens alike that he is an old wineskin but with new wine, because the old paradigm ends. Second, he must be committed to let the police do police work and not make Montague-like utterances about control.

New Junior Minister Spencer had better quickly remember being a trade unionist, to fix relations with the Police Federation and correctional officers who were wrong-footed in the recent negotiations.

The departure of Pearnel Charles Jr from national security is a blow, but major gain for foreign affairs. He has talent, demeanour and appeals to all demographics. His strong sense of justice and mutual non-tribalistic respect will enrich diplomacy.

Last but not least, Zavia Mayne joins Shahine Robinson in labour and social security. Being a novice in this ministry has never impeded anyone who was willing to learn from within and without the ministry.

Anyway, the gauntlet is down. Let's see what the Comrades have to counter.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.