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Why are people acting in key Agriculture positions?

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24.APR.09

Editor: I wonder how the Ministry of Agriculture could, in these challenging times, begin the process of a more decided lifting of its game. Three key positions within the Ministry of Agriculture are in an acting capacity. The fact that these Officers are acting does not give a positive impression of a Ministry that has a comprehensive National Agricultural Production Plan to implement.{{more}}

The Permanent Secretary, the Chief Agricultural Officer and the Deputy Chief Agricultural Officer are all Acting Officers. My particular concern is the Acting Chief. He has extensive knowledge and experience acquired from his position of Deputy Chief and his acquisition of various academic achievements.

The reality is the holder of such office must be someone who shares the philosophy of the Government or appears to be neutral. Such person must have the confidence of the Cabinet to implement the policies and programmes of the Government.

In no uncertain terms, the Minister, and by extension the Government, had sufficient time to determine if this individual is suitably qualified to be appointed as Chief Agricultural Officer. This is the most important technical position in the Ministry. The Minister, when he was an Extension Officer, reported to the now acting Chief. It is his call to recommend a permanent appointment to the Office of Chief Agricultural Officer. This situation obviously creates a chain of acting positions from the Chief downwards.

The Prime Minister said: “I am aware of some real challenges facing Agriculture, but I am also satisfied that much more can and should be done by the Ministry, especially in certain critical areas in both banana and non-banana agriculture. This year the nation, particularly the farmers, expect their beloved Ministry to accelerate the pace and quality of its delivery of the capital project and on-going services. They have the quantity and quality of staff to do so; they have the material resources, including vehicles; they have been allocated a sufficiency of financial resources to implement their plans and programmes; and they possess quality administrative, technical and political leadership to put it all together.”

With this sort of weight on the Ministry, I was expecting certain key appointment be made permanent. This does nothing for these people, because they are sitting on the fence in terms of their career. It does not enhance their confidence to implement key decisions.

This is a Government in its second term of office. A key Ministry such as Agriculture should not have those acting positions for so long. In my mind, either the present person is permanently appointed as Chief Agricultural Officer, or make other suitable arrangements for him.

GB

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