Tepid THA reshuffle

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. - File photo by Angelo Marcelle
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. - File photo by Angelo Marcelle

IN POLITICS, a reshuffle is done with several objectives in mind. A leader may wish to “refresh” the government, often in the face of reduced popularity. He may want to remove underperformers, reward hard workers, placate opponents, or else punish them. He might desire to signal a shift in policy; respond to public sentiment.

None of these aims appear to have been achieved by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine’s reshuffle of May 13.

On paper, Mr Augustine has unveiled a lot of changes. In reality, the modifications are slighter than anticipated.

Many of the shifts relate to assistant secretaries. Such functionaries do not hold the same degree of symbolic responsibility as secretaries who are charged with the general direction and control of a division and who are synonymous with the political directorate.

Mr Augustine has made just one substantive appointment, placing Joel Sampson into the post of Secretary of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport, in the process relieving Terance Baynes.

Mr Baynes, who was sworn in on May 16 as an assistant secretary in the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development, with specific responsibility for URP and maintenance, will, however, also slip into Mr Sampson’s previous role as Deputy Presiding Officer.

But the Chief Secretary’s reshuffle cannot even be described as a fait accompli. He has relieved himself of the post of Secretary of Finance, Trade and the Economy. However, no successor has been named by him to this vital portfolio. We are to wait, it seems, until July 1.

After promising changes to his executive council for several years now, we are kept in further suspense.

For the moment, it is interesting to note that while Mr Augustine has shifted Mr Baynes, he has kept figures like Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development Trevor James in place.

Mr James has been overseeing a range of public works that have raised troubling questions about adherence to regulatory approvals.

The seeming reluctance to rock the boat might reflect the tremendous pressure the Chief Secretary is under.

His administration is subject to police matters. Its relationship with the Central Executive is frosty, to put it mildly. The national disaster that was the Tobago oil spill has done little to bring about a thaw; that matter revealed glaring deficiencies in both THA and national-level systems. The Tobago authorities’ handling of a recent shark attack, meanwhile, provoked derision. Crime is getting worse.

Mr Augustine might envision this exercise as a chance to draw a contrast between his party and both the PNM and UNC, which often seem reluctant to fire under-performing ministers or change internal executives.

However, there’s another traditional objective of a reshuffle: to provide a good distraction.


"Tepid THA reshuffle"

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