Sat | Sep 19, 2020

The evolving ‘whatnots’

Published:Monday | September 14, 2020 | 12:07 AM


Jamaicans have creative names to assign to the Government’s large Cabinet; that is, ‘breakfront’ or ‘whatnot’! In commenting on Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ appointment of a 19-member Cabinet, nine state ministers, and three ministers without portfolio – political commentator Kevin O’Brien Chang asked, “What is the purpose of a minister without portfolio?”

It should be noted that in 2012, then Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller appointed 20 Cabinet ministers, eight junior ministers (state ministers), and four ministers without portfolio.

In defence of the size of the executive, jokingly called a ‘whatnot’ by many Jamaicans, she said, “I have added some young persons so that they can begin to understudy the seniors. What I am trying to do now is succession planning” (The Gleaner, January 7, 2012). We hope that those young persons who survived the recent general election as members of parliament can now lead the People’s National Party.

The Jamaica Labour Party, in responding to the size of the 2012 Cabinet, expressed through its spokesman, Arthur Williams, that “the party takes issue with the decision of the prime minister to appoint four ministers without portfolio, labelling it as extravagant” (The Gleaner, January 9, 2012).

In 2016, the administration of Andrew Holness named an 18-member Cabinet, four ministers of state, and three ministers without portfolio.

Now ministers without portfolio is a common feature of government’s ‘whatnot’. They are either government ministers with no specific responsibilities or who does not head a particular ministry.

In the end, we hope that our ever-evolving ‘Whatnot’ will achieve the desired development and prosperity for the people of Jamaica.