Three women have been included in the cabinet of Andrew Holness. They are:
- Kamina Johnson Smith – Minister of Foreign affairs & Foreign Trade;
- Shahine Robinson – Minister of Labour and Social Security ; and
- Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange – Minister of Entertainment, Sport, Culture & Gender.
Marlene Malaho-Forte who will be Jamaica’s Attorney General is not a member of the cabinet. The Attorney General is a constitutional position. By that instrument, the Attorney is “the principal legal advisor to the government of Jamaica”. She sits in cabinet meetings but is not a member of cabinet.
Law is Malahoo-Forte’s passion. Added to that, this position as AG is an accelerated route to taking silk. She, in short order will be invited to the ranks of Queen’s counsel – a position reserved for Attorneys-at-law who are the pinnacle of their careers and who after more than 10 years of service have distinguished themselves at the Bar.
Fayval Williams, a first time Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Andrew will along with a veteran, Rudyard Spencer serve as State Ministers in the Finance Minister.
Rudyard Spencer in the Bruce Golding years was a Minister of Health. This is the first I am seeing someone who served as a full Minister in one dispensation accepting what must be seen as a big demotion as State Minister in another dispensation. However these are extra-ordinary times. And for Rudyard Spencer to be included in the executive of the Holness administration at this time is an indication that Holness recognizes in a major way the political challenges he may come upon and therefore the need to keep all parties at one.
Big portfolio surprises in the cabinet placement
- Robert Montague – Minister of National Security.
This portfolio assignment was totally unexpected. Montague is the Chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party, JLP. It has been said that he has sights on becoming the leader of that party one day.
It may never be admitted but Holness’ move in putting Montgaue in this portfolio, wherein success is as difficult as rolling a boulder uphill, is politically strategic. I have no doubts there are other good reasons for this appointment.
Montague is a hard worker; He has street presence and street credibility and may be able to lift the morale of the police; If he hopes to become leader of the JLP and ultimately Prime Minister he now has a great incentive to work extremely hard. If he can put policies in place to impact crime, he will forever be loved by Jamaicans.
A love for Montague at the moment would translate into love for Holness. However, if Montague were to fail, he would need to say goodbye to any desires he harbours of becoming leader of the JLP. Holness could simply replace him and move to finding another Minister.
Though this be madness, there’s method in it.
- Chris Tufton at Health Ministry
Tufton is viewed by many in Jamaica as a good political catch. He is publicly palatable and highly respected – though not equally liked by all. The perceived internal political machinations of the party in getting him an ‘easy seat’ in the lower house of parliament was to increase the executive stock whenever the JLP forms the government. That time is now.
But who would have thought in this portfolio. Health Ministry? Why? A neophyte to matters of health, Dr. Tutfon takes over control of this Ministry when it is crying out for decent and credible leadership following a disastrous period by Dr. Fenton Ferguson.
The assignment of Dr. Tufton to this ministry by Prime Minister Holness, as well as the assignment of Montague to Ministry of National Security originate in a Machiavellian cranium. There is great cunning and political strategy at work – give my greatest challengers the greatest challenges. If they succeed, my stocks will rise as will theirs. If they fail, I will act and cut them down. Theirs stocks will fall, not mine.
- Audley Shaw – Ministry of Finance
A promise made by Holness, promise kept. I believe Audley Shaw handled the Finance portfolio well during the time he was minister in 2007 – 2011. The only failing that others point to is the falling apart of the IMF deal which the then JLP administration had entered into.
Dr. Peter Phillips has taken the country through 10 tests designed by the IMF. We have been told that we have passed them all.
Shaw needs to ensure that trend continues to the end of the agreement. Holness knows all too well what failure of any of those quarterly reviews will mean for the country and for his administration.
Shaw continues to have a strong core support of members in the JLP who still fancy that he should lead the party. In being the Finance Minister, he knows that he is also proving himself worthy of their continued support. If he can maintain the IMF programme and if there can be more than anemic growth under his watch as Finance Minister, his stocks will rise, but so too would Holness’.
If he fails to hold the IMF deal together it would be immaterial that the State Minister, Fayval Williams, has been given the responsibility for IMF negotiations. Any failure of the IMF agreement would be a Shaw failure. He would be removed, his stocks would fall, Holness’ stocks would rise as any removal of Shaw would be seen as Holness being accountable to the people of Jamaica.
This game is a win-win for Prime Minister Holness. The successes of his greatest challengers for leadership in the JLP are twinned to their abilities to deliver in the very difficult ministries to which each of them is assigned. The harder they work, the greater the reward for the country and for Holness as Prime Minister. If they succeed they will be admired for their hard work so too will Holness for this politically brilliant strategy – crafted, calculated with great cunning adorned in political brilliance.