OMAR DAVIES is, indeed, exceedingly arrogant. No one, however, could seriously accuse him of being a fool.
He appreciates nuanced argument - and at times employs it. Which is a claim we, unfortunately, can't make in favour of some of his critics, especially in relation to his recent comments in Parliament about the real value, as opposed to the "optics", of reducing the size of the Cabinet.
In the process, they are letting Dr Davies, and more important, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, off the hook in what ought to be the real debate: about the structure of the public sector, and separately, the talent that resides in the PM's Cabinet.
This discussion is of even greater imperative given the macroeconomic and structural reforms upon which Jamaica is embarking under its imminent economic-support agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Achieving the targets of this programme will demand top-quality leadership and management in the public sector.
MAIN POINT LOST
First, this newspaper has, at the time of its formulation, and on a number of occasions recently, identified several members of the Cabinet who could, and still ought to be, sent deep into the parliamentary back benches, with no value impact on the operation of the Government. There are junior ministers, too, who bring nothing to policy formulation, public discourse and/or the management of the portfolios they carry.
All this misses the fundamentals of Dr Davies' argument, allowing a hatch through which the administration can slither.
Dr Davies, during Parliament's debate on the Government's plan to take J$46 billion in budgetary expenses from the National Housing Trust (NHT), was responding to criticism of his move, as well as the administration's $16-billion tax package, by the shadow finance minister, Audley Shaw. Mr Shaw argued for a cut in the size of the Cabinet - upon which Dr Davies, the construction minister, seized.
Essentially, Dr Davies' argument was that as a sound-bite and for "optics", which we read to mean symbolic value, Mr Shaw's suggestion had merit. But as a serious economic proposal to tackle Jamaica's debt crisis, it was frivolous.
We agree. Especially if that was all the shadow finance minister had to offer.
While we appreciate symbolic gestures, like showing the political executive sharing in the country's hardship, there are far more fundamental things to be done. For example, we need to get on with the long, and much-talked-about, public-sector reform, on which there has been little action.
Serious action on this front, to transform the public bureaucracy in an efficient facilitator of, rather than a deterrent to enterprise, would go a long - almost organic - way towards shaping the size of the Cabinet. For instance, there are several agencies, across various ministries, that can be collapsed into each other, obviating the need for line ministers, especially if these agencies have the benefit of skilled, efficient civil-service management.
These are the types of debates that must be robustly engaged - optics notwithstanding.
By the way, we still believe that there are incompetents, time-wasters and bench-warmers and lazy hacks, well past their prime, who should not have been there in the first place and who PM Simpson Miller should now throw out of the Cabinet. But that is a different matter.
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