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EDITORIAL - Do some house-cleaning, PM

Published:Sunday | December 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Despite claims that she was not given a 10-day ultimatum, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has reassigned Ian Hayles from the agriculture ministry .

It is no secret that Mr Hayles' boss, Roger Clarke, the full minister, wanted Mr Hayles to go. The problem is that it has leaked that Mr Clarke has told the PM that it must happen as a matter of urgency. The working relationship between both men, what little there was, totally broke down at Mr Clarke's discovery that he was kept in the dark about Mr Hayles' allegation of being secretly recorded by the ministry's now-fired information chief.

With Mrs Simpson Miller acting on that matter, the shuffling out shouldn't end with Mr Hayles. Roger Clarke should be right behind him, followed by others in the Government.

To the point: Mrs Simpson Miller, a year into the life of her administration, should use the Clarke-Hayles imbroglio to reduce the size of her executive and attempt to breathe life into her largely comatose, or at best, narcoleptic, Cabinet.

The PM will recall that her administration got off to a bad start, viewed by most Jamaicans, in the context of Jamaica's economic situation and Mrs Simpson Miller's criticisms of her predecessors, as top-heavy and expensive.

Approximately 60 per cent (25) of the PNP's 42 members of the House of Representatives are in the executive, either as full ministers (17) or deputies (eight). There are three full ministers from the Senate.

Time for small, lean cabinet

In fashioning her Cabinet, Mrs Simpson Miller, given the tough economic reforms to be undertaken, missed the symbolism of fashioning a small, lean Cabinet. Further, she did not make the best use of the available talent. There was not a sense that the aim was a Cabinet to address complex matters in difficult times.

Mrs Simpson Miller has an opportunity to remedy the error. At the agriculture ministry, it is not because we do not believe that Mr Clarke is a decent, hearty man who genuinely cares for agriculture. It is that we perceive of agriculture as a 21st-century business, in need of the post-fork-and-hoe transformational leader, capable of embracing and transfusing this vision.

We are further of the view that Sandrea Falconer and Natalie Neita-Headley could leave the Cabinet, without policy impact or serious notice. There is an unfortunate conflation of the role of government spokesperson with that of information policy formulation and/or execution, the latter in which little has happened. Further, Mrs Neita-Headley's presence is a poor substitute, for the PM has better appeal at sporting events.

Noel Arscott, the local government minister, and his deputy at the local government ministry, would probably contrive some value on the parliamentary back benches, as would Derrick Kellier, the labour minister, who seems to have missed the big picture, and therefore, the potential of his portfolio.

Richard Azan cuts an imposing figure at the sites of busted public infrastructure, but that is hardly enough to command a job as a junior minister. Luther Buchanan could probably discover his talents somewhere else, more likely outside ministerial role, rather than at the prime minister's office.

Purging these persons is the obvious starting point for a reshaping of the Government.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.