Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s decision to have a 28-member Cabinet, along with two ambassadors who can attend Cabinet meetings, could simply be a matter of self-preservation.
This suggestion from Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley, who told Barbados TODAY in an interview this week that while he took the Prime Minister at her word that her large Cabinet reflected the gravity of the task ahead to rescue Barbados economically, he was mindful of the fact that too many backbenchers could make for a volatile political scenario.
“It is quite possible coming into her thinking is the view that you have got to make sure that you don’t have too much fuel behind you, so that if a spark is lit, there may be an explosion in the administration. By this I mean if your front bench is reduced, which therefore means that your backbench is enlarged, and a spark is lit from your front bench, you would not want that great repository of fuel in the back.
“Some may suggest that this may have certainly influenced her thinking and after all, she is a political being and I have no doubt that may have been part of her thinking,” said Atherley, in light of the Barbados Labour Party’s emphatic 30-seat victory in the May 24 general elections.
This was followed by Mottley’s naming of her cabinet team, along with a senatorial team of 12, which was met with immediate criticism from defeated Democratic Labour Party St Andrew candidate Irene Sandiford-Garner, who, in a post made on the Facebook page of the St Andrew Branch, pointed out that “in her first 24 hours [as Prime Minister] Mia added 14 new ministers and three staff each”, which she calculated would cost the Treasury “$664,000 a month or $8 million a year”.
In addition to her Cabinet appointments, Mottley, whose team is much larger than the 20-member Cabinet headed by former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, has since appointed five special advisors in Dr Hugh Sealey, who will tackle sewage and environmental matters; Dr Annalee Babb, digital technology; Dr Avinash Persaud, economic matters; Ben Arrindell, the international business sector, and Jonathan Reid, youth policy.
She has also hired non-national Charles Jong as her Communications Director, in addition to appointing ex-diplomat Jessica Odle-Baril as her personal aide and Pat Parris, the former executive assistant to the Leader of the Opposition, as Director of Public Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister.
However, Atherley, who was not given a ministerial portfolio and subsequently crossed the floor a week after the polls to become the lone voice in Opposition, pointed out that Mottley has “maintained from the beginning that there are some critical tasks facing the Government and she wants them addressed robustly.
“She believes that they need the attention of every minister focused on every aspect of their portfolio. Truth be told there are some heavy matters which they must deal with and it is therefore on that basis that she claims to have allocated ministers to specific portfolios.
“[Therefore], I can’t quarrel with her over that explanation,” he said.