Prime Minister Andrew Holness has the unenviable task of selecting a cabinet. Unenviable because he has the slimmest of margins ever seen after an electoral victory by any political party in Jamaica- 32:31. His party the Jamaica Labour Party, JLP, won by a mere 1 seat majority over the now Oppostion, People’s National Party, PNP.
This is Holness’ pickle – any person who believes he or she should be in the cabinet and who is not selected by Holness, can, by crossing the floor to the Opposition PNP, change the balance of power and force Holness to go back to the polls almost instantly. Needless to say, depending on how soon that happens- if at all, Holness could be, the shortest serving Prime Minister – a title no one is eager to wrest from Donald Sangster.
The second reason his role in selecting a cabinet is unenviable is because he cannot select a large cabinet.
By the constitution, the cabinet cannot be smaller than 12 members. There is however no constitutional maximum. Based on public reaction to previous selections, it seems to be agreed that anything over 16 (my preference is 15), is a large cabinet.
Former Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller in 2012 named a 28-member executive. There were 20 Ministers and 8 State Ministers. The Gleaner reported at one time that that cabinet cost taxpayers close to $200 million per annum, at then rates, in salaries and allowances.
Former Prime Minister, Bruce Golding named 18 Ministers and 8 Ministers of State in 2007. In Mr. Holness’ first and short stint as Prime Minister in October 2011, he named a 17-member Cabinet and 9 junior ministers.
The electorate will not accept that a small cabinet cannot do the job – especially at this time. The last mega size cabinet of Portia Simpson-Miller was not seen as having provided value for money. The explanation at the time from Mrs. Simpson Miller was that she needed a mix of youth and experience so the youth could under-study those with experience. The results are known.
Holness’ greatest challenge now is his success at the polls. Approximately 17 or 18 of the people who were part of the Golding 2007 Cabinet (either as a full Minister or a State Minister) have won their seats on a JLP ticket in 2016. These are: – Andrew Holness, Audley Shaw, Dr. Chris Tufton, Delroy Chuck, Rudyard Spencer, Derrick Smith, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Pearnel Charles, Mike Henry, Ed Bartlett, Dr. Horace Chang, Karl Samuda, Robert Montague, Daryl Vaz, Everard Warmington, Shahine Robinson, James Robertson.
In 2011 when Holness became Prime Minister after Golding’s resignation, except for James Robertson, all others in Golding cabinet were included in his- then.
All of them are perhaps now expecting to be back as Ministers.
Further we have: Dr Andrew Wheatley, JC Hutchinson, Desmond McKenzie and others I may have missed you were part of the Holness’ shadow cabinet and whose expectation should also be heightened.
If Holness is to grant their wishes, he would have a large cabinet without any of the new, bright and vibrant faces that have been recently elected. These faces include Marlene Malahoo Forte, Fayval Williams, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Juliet Holness, Floyd Green, Alando Terrelonge et al.
Additionally the constitution stipulates that at least 2 Ministers and at most 4 must come from the Senate. This is where Kamina Johnson Smith, Ruel Reid, Dr. Nigel Clarke, Aubyn Hill, (and I would strongly suggest Audrey Marks) – would come in.
What a pickle this! Holness’ current situation is #PinnedDown; #UndaPresha.
The cabinet I would like to see coming up next – if I can choose it!