WITH his latest Cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has placed even more work on his shoulders while doing little to assuage serious concerns in relation to some of his ministers.
It must be asked whether in appointing himself as Minister of Housing and Urban Development Rowley has taken on too much. The reshuffle comes amid the collapse of the Cabinet’s Economic Development Advisory Board with the departures of Dr Terrence Farrell and, now, David Abdulah, who reports that the board is effectively not functioning. Still, it is not unusual for prime ministers to hold multiple portfolios. Previous prime ministers have also performed duties in relation to security and finance, among others.
Rowley served as housing minister in the Cabinet of Patrick Manning and has a close affinity with this particular portfolio. Therefore, it may well be that the Prime Minister intends to bring special skills and experience to bear on the ministry and to even more strongly signal to the population that housing is a central key plank of his agenda.
In this regard it is to be noted Rowley will be assisted by new Minister in the Ministry of Housing Darryl Smith. But while the reassignment of Smith is a demotion for the Sports Minister, the decision to bring him in a position more proximate to the Office of the Prime Minister will raise questions.
This is especially so given the reports of serious misconduct which have been raised in the public domain relating to Smith. Could it be that the Prime Minister intends to keep a closer eye on Smith? Has he placed Smith in the post pending an inquiry into the matters now in the public domain relating to a court case and a non-disclosure clause? None of these seem satisfactory given the gravity of the allegations of abuse of power and sexual harassment.
As for new Minister of Public Administration and Communications Marlene McDonald, her slow but steady return to full substantive minister will dismay those who note questions remain pertaining to her past tenure under the Manning administration and newly-disclosed associations which got her into trouble not too long ago.
The question of the health of Maxie Cuffie was long outstanding and has, finally, been addressed by the appointment of someone to fully hold the fort. Still, it must be noted Cuffie will continue to play a role as a minister in the Ministry of Public Administration.
What remains to be observed is the fact that Shamfa Cudjoe will be appointed to a new portfolio after a tenure in which bold changes occurred but little results were immediately apparent.
With pressing issues such as crime, human rights and our foreign affairs agenda crying out for attention, all will wonder whether this reshuffle mirrors that – outwardly bold but lacking true bite.