Tue | Nov 20, 2018

Letter of the day: Rethink appointing Shaw as finance minister

Published:Monday | February 29, 2016 | 12:00 AM


Prime minister-designate Andrew Holness may feel some sense of obligation to appoint Audley Shaw as minister of finance. After all, he did repeatedly commit to do so if he was given the nod to lead the country.

Additionally, the temptation to reward Shaw for his loyalty after what was a bitter internal leadership struggle within the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) must be strong. The prime minister-designate must, however, resist this temptation. Shaw should not be returned as finance minister because of his previous performance in the post - a real fear that he may derail the economic reform programme.

There is no doubt that anyone who is to replace Dr Peter Phillips at the Ministry of Finance will have big shoes to fill. Audley Shaw does not size up in this regard. Not only does he lack credibility with the international financial community, given his blunders with the last International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal, but his last stint at the ministry has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many businesses and investors.

Holness had promised to issue job letters to members of his Cabinet to ensure that high-level performance is maintained, and also indicated that there would be sanctions for ministers who fail to meet the targets set.




In this context, appointing Audley Shaw as finance minister sends the wrong signal. The targets in regards to economic management in 2016 would not be much different from the last time Shaw served as finance minister, given that both time periods are cast in the shadow of an IMF deal.

Additionally, Holness has promised that he will be deviating from the governance of the past, which was largely characterised by a system of clientelism. If he takes this commitment seriously, then he must take the first step to deny Shaw a hold on the country's purse.

To do otherwise would set a precedent for the system of clientelism to continue because Shaw's appointment would be nothing more than the doling out of political favour. Shaw, if appointed, may well surprise us and perform well in the role, but the prime minister-designate should not make such a gamble, not when the economic reform programme is at such a delicate juncture.