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LETTER OF THE DAY - Unfair grading of government ministers

Published:Wednesday | January 16, 2013 | 12:00 AM


Page A2 of The Sunday Gleaner of January 6, 2013 listed the ratings accorded to Cabinet members by three experts working independently of each other, but in accordance with criteria set by the newspaper.

The criteria are "the creation of new policy and/or launch of initiatives to actively address issues under their portfolios, illustration of personal leadership and competent management of their portfolios".

The results turned out to be befuddling. There is no common thread in the ratings given by these experts. For instance, Minister Bunting's ratings varied from A- to D, Minister Phillips from B+ to D-.

How can one be given these ratings that Minister Bunting is an A- minister or a D grade minister? The same goes for Minister Phillips and most of the other ministers.

One should first examine how a Cabinet works or ought to work. A Cabinet is not a collection of individual members each trying to outdo the others. To the contrary, a Cabinet is essentially a team working together under the leadership of a head - the prime minister. Decisions taken are collective and binding on all members.

The criteria do not take into consideration that power is not evenly distributed across ministries. The minister of finance wields tremendous power by virtue of his control of the finances of the country. Particularly now, the poor state of the economy places considerable limits on the funding for most, if not all, ministries. These differences in the distribution of funding thus affect the performance of the different ministries.

Criteria extremely subjective

There are considerations apart from financial constraints. The criteria set by The Sunday Gleaner are extremely subjective. For instance, regarding "new policy, personal leadership and the competent management of their portfolios", how can these be judged objectively? The Government has been in power for only one year.

Furthermore, it is difficult to establish a rating of "competent management of their portfolios" that is applicable across ministries because of variances in visibility and achievement of results. For instance, the Ministry of Justice may make a ruling that only time, measured in years, can vindicate. The Ministry of Housing, on the other hand, can boast about the thousands of houses built - these are visible.

The wide differences in the ratings by the experts could reasonably be attributed to the subjectivity of the criteria.

R.H. Alexander