New Cabinet, do not fail your country in this hourWednesday, September 16, 2020
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced a 19-member Cabinet which will help him to steer the ship of State through the rough and treacherous waters of a ravaged COVID-19 economy. All the economic indices indicate that the next 12 months will be a time of great economic hardship for the country. In its latest assessment of economic trends, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) painted a gloomy and dismal picture of further contraction in the economy in the near future. This is in line with the Bank of Jamaica's forecasts.
What this means is that we need a Government that can understand the economic imperatives that we face and bring the best minds and talents at its disposal to face the daunting challenges of the day. With 48 people to consider for posts in Government, any prime minister is faced with a daunting task. It is just human nature that every member of a winning team will have some expectation that he/she will be considered for an assignment, whether in the Cabinet or any other post in the Government. Some will believe that they have worked hard for it, and thus earned it. Some may harbour dark desires of the profit they can make from such an appointment. They may earnestly desire to hop on to a gravy train.
It takes a wise leader to look across the broad spectrum of talents to choose those who he believes are best able to assist him in doing a good job for the people. This time around he has a wide pool of young, energetic people balanced by a slew of older, old, and experienced hands to choose from. This only makes his work harder. He must have racked his brain to determine who should be placed in the various portfolios knowing that the burden of choice is his, as will be any consequent responsibility that may derive from it.
And the consequence of these choices can become evident soon enough. Getting a second term, he must have been mindful of what preceded it. He had made some choices in his last Cabinet that never turned out well. By the second or third year he had to call in senior members of his Cabinet, read them the 'Riot Act', and then fire them. This was easily among the most disappointing times for Holness in his last Administration. He must have felt personally let down by these ministers, especially the one that he had nurtured and brought into the political space and then into Government. He had high hopes for them both, but they bitterly disappointed him. They turned out to be tools that, in retrospect, should not have been in his Cabinet toolbox.
These occurrences must have been haunting images for him as he selected his present slate. There is a limitation to his judgements and perceptions. Unlike the God of the universe, he cannot see the intentions, evil or good, that lurk in the hearts of men and women. Neither can he keep his eyes on each appointee every hour of the day. He will therefore have to rely on their own sense of integrity and responsibility to spare him any nightmare in the governance of the country. This is what he appealed for in the swearing in of the second-tier leadership last Sunday. So, with all of this background, his was a balancing act in choosing the right people for the right portfolios.
I believe that his choices are fairly reasonable. I am particularly enamoured by the number of young people, like Floyd Green and Pearnel Charles Jr, who have been given full ministerial positions in the Government. People like Audley Shaw and Karl Samuda represent the old guard, but there may be still some “juice” left in them to make a contribution. The second-tier leadership of ministers of state is quite impressive, especially with the young talent that will be deployed in service to the country.
This column would urge all appointees, new and old, to bear true fidelity to the fiduciary responsibility that has been given to them. They must be reminded that the word minister means servant, and that they are truly servants of the people and not that of themselves or their friends, families or cronies. They must seek the highest good when it comes to their personal integrity, refusing not to be bought, and not seeking to buy others for their own personal enrichment.
If there is ever a time when the country needs individuals with the utmost integrity, moral fibre, and intention to focus on the people's business, it is now. It is not a time for frolic or for getting giddy-headed about whatever height you may think you have reached. It is not a time to think more highly of yourself, as you ought, but, as Paul reminded, to think soberly (Romans 12:3). We are still in the midst of a pandemic and all indications are for worse to come as the virus makes its deadly trek through the country. The nation will need you perhaps more than it has ever needed any administration since Independence. Do not fail your country in this hour. Do not bring shame upon the head of your leader, whose good intentions for this country cannot be disavowed. Let it be Jamaica, land we love, all the time.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the upcoming book WEEP: Why Donald Trump Does Not Deserve A Second Term . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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