EDITORIAL - Shuffle now, PM
We appreciate that the use of Roger Clarke's death as the trigger for a shake-up of her Cabinet might be sensitive for Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. Mr Clarke was one of the PM's strongest backers, and with whom she was particularly close. Further, it will be another week before the official funeral takes place for the agriculture minister who died suddenly last week.
However, the prime minister has another fact to consider - that the business of Government doesn't stop - not even for the death of someone who was as affable and genuinely decent as Roger Clarke.
Indeed, before Mr Clarke's passing, this newspaper reminded Mrs Simpson Miller of something that was obvious since the formation of her Government and has become increasingly clear even to casual observers - that the administration is top-heavy. Now, add to that the unworth and staleness of many of her ministers.
As we noted previously, Mrs Simpson Miller, in her current term, has presided over the most fundamental attempt at reform of the Jamaican economy - for the better. It matters little that it is being done with the oversight from the International Monetary Fund and came after the public finances grew so bad that there was no other credible option open to us.
But the gains being made on the fiscal accounts could be undone if there is a loss of public confidence in the reform programme. This is possible in the absence of economic growth and the creation of jobs. There are green shoots of economic recovery, but they are not growing fast enough.
Part of the problem is that, while the private sector ought to be the engine driving this expansion, its needs support and a broad national buy-in for the programme. Yet, there is not a sense of energy and mobilisation in the administration; no robust encouragement of private sector-led, supply-side activity.
Chinese-financed infrastructure projects
For instance, even as the Government promotes the big Chinese-financed infrastructure projects, there is no matching effort elsewhere in the administration to remove the red tape and bureaucracy that entangle and frustrate entrepreneurs with less fortitude and without the long horizon view of the Chinese. Additionally, no one in the Government, aside from the finance minister, has emerged as a champion of the reform project.
Mr Clarke's passing provides an opportunity to begin fixing these problems and putting in place, where possible, ministers with modern technocratic attitudes and skills required for a 21st-century economy. The PM should start by not keeping at agriculture Mr Clarke's stand-in, the substantive labour minister, Derrick Kellier.
Sandrea Falconer and Natalie Neita-Headley, who operate in the PM's office in information and sport, respectively, could easily go home without anyone noticing. Luther Buchanan, who has the job, at the Office of the Prime Minister, of oversight for country clinics, probably has better use in his guffawing in Parliament. Perhaps, there is utility in Colin Fagan and Richard Azan, the junior ministers at local government and transport and works, respectively, but hardly in public administration. There is far more to be gained, we think, in promoting someone like Julian Robinson, the junior mining and energy minister, and bringing to the Cabinet as a portfolio minister the backbencher, Fitz Jackson.
Mrs Simpson Miller has a grand opportunity, which she shouldn't waste.
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