Ministerial rearranging


Sorry. I needed a biliary stent. And my computer a new hard-drive bracket. Both at the same time.

That was three visits to the hospital, one overnight, and recovery from each. And three covid tests, one before each visit.

Similarly, three visits to the Apple store, just reopened after covid; the second one to discover my repair had been sitting unaddressed for a week.

I think we’re both back functioning.

There’s been hardly enough public debate over the changes in focus and portfolio in the new Government’s reconfiguration of the community development, sport, tourism and youth ministries.

Leaders aren’t in the habit of revealing the shared policy or visionary basis for Cabinet reshuffles. (Other than, of course, that productive ovaries signal capacity for 21st-century public education curriculum reform. Was that a Catholic clapback?)

Cabinets themselves may not know what vision or thinking lies behind their division of labour. Perhaps it’s often nothing administrative, but simply the leader’s sense of the capacities of those available for appointment as ministers.

Dr Rowley has announced a focused youth ministry we’ve lacked for years, with public service as its key programme; a linkage of community development and sport in one ministry; and joint governance of the tourism and cultural sectors. Child affairs – child development, the Children’s Authority and children’s homes – remains a separate portfolio of a non-Cabinet minister in the prime minister’s office. These are hardly simple changes.

The newly-assigned youth minister (a man who believes in pursuing custodial judgments against constituents of his who show him public disrespect) has already taken to social media and the newspaper opinion pages, revealing his tough beliefs about young men. Taking idle young people away from the street and the risk of crime appears to be the core of his vision. “

There is absolutely no shortage of opportunity for young people here,” he declared in July, suggesting there’ll also be little programme innovation on his watch.

There’s been most conversation about a ministry of tourism (followed by) culture and the arts; with the concern that this subordinates the management of the arts and our cultural heritage to the goal of economic diversification – state investment in the development of cultural products for consumption by a foreign, tourism market.

But since our tourism product is fundamentally a festival one – people typically don’t come here for sun and sand – and significant numbers of our tourists are returning nationals, there is a logic to joint management and planning for both sectors.

I fear, however, such strategic vision may not be in play at all when I see the Best Village initiative and “Management of issues relating to First Peoples” swept, along with other elements of the old community development portfolio, into the new sport ministry. Civil society engagement remains separate from community development, as a portfolio of the prime minister’s office.

Logically, the new Sport and Community Development ministry will be responsible for a range of facilities — sporting venues, community centres, and a number of other complexes. But I worry, similarly, about sport ending up with community development. The same arguments made about investment in culture apply – sport is not a crime-prevention social programme.

Ever since these ministerial schedules came out in the Gazette last week, a friend and I have been debating whether any of these divisions and boxes matter in the long run, if it isn’t vision and leadership at the end of the day that determine the functionality of small governments.

I was surprised this week to be reminded that our fellow Caribbean governments who haven’t become republics still have their governors general deliver throne speeches at the annual ceremonial opening of Parliament. Someone sent me a video clip of the yellow-pillbox-hatted and suited Dame Sandra Mason, with something precarious on her right shoulder, seated reciting the Barbados government’s vision for its next year in office.

Putting governments across the region to shame, this includes state recognition of same-sex relationships.

Shortly after republicanism, our presidents rejected this “rubber stamp with a pulse” function, as Fazeer Mohammed has dubbed it. Instead, we’ve been subject to various sorts of lectures at Parliament’s opening.

Our only parallel accountability measure to a throne speech is the annual budget speech, delivered not by the President or even the prime minister. And the Standing Finance Committee process that follows.

That’s week after next.


"Ministerial rearranging"

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