THE PRIME Minister said there will be changes, including some new faces, when his new Cabinet is sworn in on Wednesday.
He was speaking Tuesday at a media conference held at Balisier House, Port of Spain hours after the Office of the President announced it received the final results of last Monday’s general election and will swear in Dr Rowley on Wednesday. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for 4 pm at President’s House.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Office of the President said it has issued letters to Rowley and UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar enquiring of their willingness to be appointed PM and Opposition Leader respectively.
The new PNM MPs are Lisa Morris-Julien (D’Abadie/O’Meara), Symon de Nobriga (Diego Martin Central), Stephen McClashie (La Brea), Foster Cummings (La Horquetta/Talparo), Marvin Gonzales (Lopinot/Bon Air West), Kennedy Richards Jr (Point Fortin), Keith Scotland (Port of Spain South), Brian Manning (San Fernando East) and Roger Monroe (Toco/Sangre Grande) while former minister Pennelope Beckles returned as Arima MP after serving between 2000 and 2010.
Dr Rowley said some of them would be “accepting significant responsibility” while there would be a very strong element of continuity in the government.
“We are a little disappointed that we were not able to hit the ground running after the elections and that the last week has largely been wasted in gross futility but we will press on from tomorrow.”
The United National Congress had requested recounts in five seats: La Horquetta/Talparo, Toco/Sangre Grande, Tunapuna, San Fernando West and St Joseph. The recount for the last seat, St Joseph, was completed Monday night.
Rowley said the EBC confirmed what was known all along, the PNM won 22 seats and there were 19 for the Opposition.
“I am in the process of putting together a Cabinet and the rest of government which by tomorrow afternoon should be available to the public.” Asked about Persad-Bissessar’s statement on Tuesday in which she conceded defeat, Rowley replied: “I don’t know that a concession after the EBC had written to the President advising the President that the EBC has determined who has won the 41 seats and that the President is now inviting the leader of a party to form a government, there is no room for any concession there.”
He said government was hoping to move straight into the budget, but the loss of a week (because of the recounts) was not “fatal.” He explained the next budget will be one “with a difference” as it will have to cater for the covid19 pandemic.
He said the election was called early to give the new government ample time to put a budget in place.
“We are now positioned to do that.” Rowley said commitments were made during the campaign and these have now become mandates despite funding being tight.
Asked if the Cabinet changes were fairly fundamental, Rowley replied they were not.
“But we would see some changes that would focus on some of the major initiatives that we have to do.” He said agriculture would be given “centre stage” as government is trying to do a lot of work in that area. He added there would also be a focus on digitisation.
“And that would have come in step with our road map arrangements, that we would need to bring that into the government in a special way.”