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EDITORIAL - Bad choice for agriculture

Published:Wednesday | October 8, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Quite predictably, Prime Minister (PM) Portia Simpson Miller has formally appointed Derrick Kellier as the agriculture minister and named Luther Buchanan as his deputy. Mr Kellier retains his substantive post as the minister of labour and social security.

Both appointments represent bad choices by the PM. Agriculture, at this time, requires transformative leadership that neither Mr Kellier nor Mr Buchanan, on the evidence of their performance in government so far, can deliver.

Mr Kellier has had responsibility for agriculture for the past three months since the illness, and subsequent sudden death, of Roger Clarke, and Mrs Simpson Miller had signalled that, given Jamaica's difficult economic circumstances, it was unlikely that she would bring the Cabinet back to the size it was prior to Mr Clarke's passing.

Missed opportunity

While there may be logic to the PM's arithmetic thinking, it is wanting in strategic analysis. Mr Clarke's death, even without adding to the numbers, was a grand opportunity to restructure her Government, many of whose members are decidedly stale. Agriculture and labour are two ministries that were in need of a new type of leadership.

This newspaper appreciated Roger Clarke, the man, and celebrated his jovial, larger-than-life personality. But we did not believe, and saw no evidence to the contrary, that Mr Clarke offered the modern, technological thinking required to transform Jamaica's agriculture into a 21st-century-style economic activity, despite his allusion to agricultural modernism via the so-called agro parks.

Indeed, not since Edward Seaga's 1980s project, Agro-21, launched at the time of Jamaica's 21st anniversary of Independence, has there been a serious attempt at a modern, technologically driven approach to agriculture that sought to fuse food security and export production of traditional and new crops. It is unfortunate that Mr Seaga chose Israeli crooks for these ventures, leading to their failure, though not without logic and proof of the concepts.

Lacking imagination

Mr Kellier's management of the labour portfolio, which remains on the periphery of government rather than becoming a key economic ministry and a changing environment, does not suggest that he possesses the imagination for the large, transformative approach we perceive for agriculture. At least Roger Clarke had a passion for agriculture and a love for farmers. They reciprocated.

Mr Kellier possesses none of Mr Clarke's strengths. Nor is Mr Buchanan likely to be of any help. His obvious contribution to government is to guffaw his way, in schoolyard ragging fashion, through parliamentary sittings. And we believe that he had a job in the prime minister's office, determining the location of rural clinics and auditing their inventory, or something akin thereto.

It is not easy for a prime minister to reverse her ministerial appointments. In this case, Mrs Simpson Miller should.


Wary of KSAC's tree planting

It would be foolhardy of us to criticise the planting of trees in a city park by members of Kingston's local government, but given their record, we are right to be wary.

You can expect that the bulk of the trees planted, in parks and elsewhere, will soon die for want of care. Some hardy ones will survive and grow big and unkempt and dangerous, like those evergreens embedded on the sidewalk during Karl Blythe's time in the 1990s, to add to the blighting of the city.
Recently, the local government has been pruning, rather hacking at, some of these trees. It's not the aesthetics of the city we expect.

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:editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223.  Responses should be no longer than 400 words.  Not all responses will be published.