Cabinet reshuffle looms

There
are increasingly louder whispers in Government circles that Prime Minister Andrew Holness is planning a reshuffle of his Cabinet before the end of this year.

After being elected to serve a second-consecutive term in 2020, Holness announced his first Cabinet shuffle in January.

Now Jamaica Observer sources say the prime minister has gone back to the drawing board for two main reasons, with the announcement expected at the earliest before Christmas, and at the latest early in the new year.

“The prime minister wants some fresh thinking for the leadership of some ministries and he is also keeping an eye on the next general election as we approach the midterm of the 2020 victory,” said a Sunday Observer source.

“Some of the changes will reflect the prime minister’s dissatisfaction with how the ministries are performing but look for at least two strategic shifts which will be designed to ensure that, while the party remains in Government, the political machinery remains in good condition,” added the source.

The Sunday Observer has been told to pay keen attention to the ministries of national security, health, education, agriculture, and foreign affairs, as those could all see changes.

“I can’t speak for the prime minister, but I expect that one change will be in the position of Leader of Government Business in the Lower House. While [Bartlett] is a good man for the job, he is frequently overseas on official business as the minister of tourism, so I expect ‘Babsy’ [Olivia Grange] to get that job, and that is the only change I would bet on,” declared one Government source.

He noted that with the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) calling for the head of Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton over the deaths of 13 babies at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Holness might not want to shift him at this time as that might be seen as bowing to the demands of the PNP.

“But it has been a tough ministry for Chris, who did an excellent job steering the health sector through the COVID-19 pandemic while dealing with the rebuilding of Cornwall Regional Hospital, a shortage of staff in a number of key areas, and the myriad other problems facing the sector.

“So maybe the PM decides to give him a break and assign someone else to that ministry, but it will not be because of the baying of the Opposition or a lack of faith in Chris,” the source declared.

“Similarly, if there is a shift in the Ministry of National Security, it will not be because the PM has lost faith in Dr [Horace] Chang. It must be remembered that Dr Chang is the party’s general secretary and, in a little over two years, we will have another general election to win, so Dr Chang could be shifted to a less demanding ministry to allow him time to do the groundwork that the party needs, and he is the best at that,” the source added.

In the January shuffle of his Cabinet, the major changes by Holness included Robert Montague, who was shifted from the Ministry of Transport and Mining to the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, as minister without portfolio; Floyd Green, who returned to the executive as minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister; and Marlene Malahoo Forte who was appointed to head the newly-created Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Dr Derrick McKoy replaced her as attorney general.

Other changes included Robert Morgan, who was the minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, being elevated to the Cabinet as minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for information; Pearnel Charles Jr was shifted to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, while Audley Shaw replaced Montague as the minister of transport and mining.

Senator Aubyn Hill was named the minister of industry, investment and commerce, to replace Shaw while Senator Matthew Samuda was shifted from national security to take charge of environment and climate change. Zavia Mayne replaced Samuda in the security ministry as a minister of state.

At that time Holness said the changes took into account the need for greater focus and attention on constitutional and legal reform as well as improving the pace of development and passage of legislation through the Parliament.

“These changes are also designed to facilitate greater coordination and synergy of resources on further increasing the number of housing solutions at affordable prices as well as the development and pursuit of new economic opportunities, such as the blue and the green economy as we recover from the pandemic.

“As the Government moves towards fulfilling its mandate, increasing the pace of implementation of projects, and transitioning its management of the pandemic, there is also a greater need for coordination in the dissemination of timely and accurate information to the public,” Holness said in the news release announcing the changes.

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