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Reshuffle or transfer of problems?


Fri, Feb 24. 2012

Editor: The recent announcement by the Prime Minister to reshuffle his Cabinet has left many of us wondering if it may be a transfer of problems rather than a genuine and meaningful reshuffle. When we, as concerned Vincentians, seriously question the effectiveness of the reshuffle, it is not because we question the PM’s ‘right’ to make necessary adjustments to his cabinet.{{more}} It is only natural to wonder how effective certain ministers would be, based on their evidently poor performance.

Minister Burgin’s new portfolio is one of the greatest surprises to many persons. Clayton Burgin is now Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment. Though the PM tried hard to justify Mr. Burgin’s fitness to perform his accorded duties, it was laughable, even to some of Burgin’s own constituents. Some say “Burgin can’t even get a road fixed in his own constituency …how he going function as health minister?” As for me, I remember Burgin’s inconsiderate words Re: the three teachers who did not get back their jobs after contesting last General Elections on an NDP ticket. The SEARCHLIGHT news paper quoted him as saying “The March 22, 2011 edition of SEARCHLIGHT quotes the minister as saying: “I am not Service Commissions, neither the Minister of Education. But if I have my way, they stay where they are…and that’s that.” It is significant to note that Mr. Burgin used to be a teacher and he played a role in signing the collective agreement! The delicate nature of Burgin’s new portfolio requires much tenderness, care and understanding. I hope he would not be as heartless and inconsiderate.

In recent times, Minister Montgomery Daniel’s behaviour has been the subject of much discussion- rightly so. His incompetence in dealing with the black sigatoka is a harsh reality which remains with us. The sick state of the agricultural Industry here in St.Vincent is the best judge of Daniel’s performance! Worse still, the Minister’s response to the issues is embarrassing and proud. Instead of humbly apologising to the affected farmers for his negligence, he tries to make a non-existent distinction between taking the ‘blame’ and taking the ‘responsibility’. With such a proud, unapologetic spirit, could he function effectively at the Ministry of the Ministry of Housing, Informal Human Settlements etc. Mr. Daniel, please surprise us!

No one doubts that it is good for ministers to be reassigned and have different responsibilities. The question is: Will their capacity be strengthened? If they do not change the attitude and work ethic displayed in their previous ministries, how effective will they be in the newly assigned ones?

Like many Vincentians, I am not fully aware of the Ministers’ academic and experiential qualifications, but we have been observing their behaviour! Before taking on his new portfolio, Burgin should undergo (1) an intense course to understand human suffering and (2) trainings in consideration of the needs of his fellowmen (like the three teachers). Mr. Montgomery Daniel should be fired instead of given a new ministry. Or, should his removal from the Ministry of Agriculture be interpreted as disciplinary action?

As usual, the PM wanted to appear as if it was an excellent decision he made. He explained: ‘I like the different ministers to have different experiences…”. However, it was easy to realise that he found difficulty convincing himself. I certainly wasn’t convinced! It left me wondering, “Is that a reshuffle or a transfer of problems?”

Ann-Marie Ballantyne
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