KINGSTON –– Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday recommitted his newly installed government to a policy of efficiency and frugality in public administration following the swearing in of his 18-member cabinet and warned them that corruption would not be tolerated.
Speaking shortly after Governor General Sir Patrick Allen had sworn in the new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) executive, Holness reminded the packed ballroom at King’s House that his government’s focus, direction and priority are to “grow the economy, create jobs, and reduce public debt to sustainable levels”.
He boasted that by appointing a cabinet below the provocative figure of 20, despite the many challenges it is faced with, was as a signal of the frugality he hopes to maintain.
He said that the size of the cabinet, and the tasks assigned the members, was tangible evidence the JLP was not only interested in changing government, but also how government works.
“This is the first signal, indeed test, that we intend to be efficient and frugal in government,” he stated.
Holness formed a trio from the old guard –– Daryl Vaz, Derrick Smith, and Dr Horace Chang –– as ministers without portfolio to work with him, under the umbrella of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). The newly created Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, which he announced during his election campaign, will tackle the two areas he had found most wanting in the previous government –– lack of growth and jobs.
The four ministers, the Jamaica Observer was told, will work “to replace the red tape with a red carpet” in encouraging new investments, as well as deal with perennial issues affecting infrastructural works, water and housing.
Holness also created a super Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Agriculture, with veteran MP Karl Samuda at the helm, supported by former agriculture spokesman J.C. Hutchinson as minister without portfolio.
Another super ministry is that of Finance and Planning which, as expected, will be led by Audley Shaw, who served as finance minister from 2007 to 2011 when the JLP formed the government. He will be supported by two junior ministers –– MPs Fayval Williams and Rudyard Spencer –– who are expected to focus on fiscal policy and the public service, respectively.
Holness drafted Jamaica College principal Ruel Reid to help fulfil his dream of pulling detached youths back into formal society, through increased access and improved education.
The ministry, under Reid’s guidance, is expected to renew youthful confidence in the country’s ability to provide access to education and training to prepare young people for the opportunities it hopes increased investments and growth will produce in the next few years.
Reid, who was Holness’s education advisor between 2007 and 2011, will handle the education, youth and information portfolios, with help from Floyd Green, former president of the party’s young professionals arm Generation 2000 (G2K).
The appointment of Robert Montague as minister of national security, instead of Derrick Smith, was somewhat a surprise, as well. He will be joined at that ministry by another surprise inclusion, that of Pearnel Charles Jr, a former clerk of the courts and Crown counsel, and son of former minister of labour Pearnel Charles.
Dr Andrew Wheatley will move into Phillip Paulwell’s former office at the PCJ Building in New Kingston as minister of energy, science and technology; Desmond McKenzie has been appointed to continue pursuing his area of greatest competence, local government; Mike Henry has been named minister of transport and mining; Olivia “Babsy” Grange returns in charge of the social issues portfolios of sports, entertainment, culture and gender affairs; Edmund Bartlett, despite shadowing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for the past two years, will return to his favourite portfolio, tourism; Dr Christopher Tufton returns to the House of Representatives and the cabinet in charge of the problematic Ministry of Health; and Delroy Chuck returns to Justice.
Former resident magistrate Marlene Malahoo Forte comes in as attorney general; Shahine Robinson will handle Labour and Social Security; and Kamina Johnson Smith, daughter of former JLP minister and High Commissioner to London Anthony Johnson, will handle the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.