PM urged to appoint more women, young people to ministerial positions

As Prime Minister, Andrew Holness prepares to name the rest of his new Cabinet, business leaders are encouraging him to consider appointing more women and young people to ministerial positions, once they meet the criteria.

Making such appointments, they contend, will ensure that there is greater dynamism in decision-making by the executive.

An increased number of women and youth on the Government side successfully contested the September 3 general election.

Four ministers who served in the previous administration have already been re-appointed to key positions, representing a mix of youth, gender and experience.

They are Minister of National Security and Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Horace Chang; Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith; and Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Christopher Tufton.

Jamaica Employers’ Federation (JEF) President, David Wan, argues that there should be no issue with the prime minister reconfiguring the composition of the Cabinet to include new persons, even where others are deemed to be performing well.

He says that while Holness may not want to lose the continuity of an individual’s output “it is sometimes good to refresh a part of your Cabinet”.

“You don’t want a situation arising where no new ideas are or may not be coming in,” he points out.

Regarding the initial four Cabinet appointments, Wan said he “expected no less”.

He pointed out that with Jamaica being in the throes of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, those positions are “the four most essential ones…right now”.

“The rest of the ministerial appointments can be made afterwards, as they are not as urgent as these four,” the JEF president says, noting that the ministers served well in their previous engagements.

Wan further suggested that the prime minister give consideration to appointing independent senators in the Upper House of Parliament. 

“Given the huge margin by which the Government won, I would [be] very pleased if he announced that they would be giving two seats in the Senate to independents… to facilitate more voices being heard because of the big majority,” he said.

Noting that with the “large margin [of victory] comes big responsibilities and expectations”, Wan says that a potential challenge for the prime minister could be “how do you get your ministers and Members of Parliament to perform without any level of arrogance coming in because they feel that the public has given them a serious endorsement”.

He contends that consultation and consensus will be crucial in ensuring that sound objective decisions are made.

Small Business Association of Jamaica President, Hugh Johnson, agrees that consideration should be given to reconfiguring the Cabinet in order to maximise output.

 “Young people, in my opinion, are always welcome to step up. The prime minister had several junior ministers [in the previous Cabinet] and he has a number of young bright persons who we are expecting to be pushed forward to take up the mantle. That’s what he should be looking to do as the opportunities arise,” he said.

Meanwhile, business analyst Warren McDonald, who describes the appointment of a deputy prime minister as “pleasantly surprising”, believes the prime minister will introduce fresh faces in the Cabinet.

“Yes! Definitely! I think this will be done,” he said.

He argued that based on the composition of the last Cabinet and discussions in the public domain, “I think he will need to bring in some new people… some younger people and some females”.

 McDonald says, however, that his primary concern is that, based on the outcome of the general election, “we could end up with a Government that may be too large”.

“With 48 people, my fear is that [the Prime Minister may] try to please… a fair proportion of requests and you enlarge your Government, which then becomes unwieldy.

 “He has, however, emphasised the need for persons to guard against complacency… recognising that the people are the ones who elected them and that they are there to serve. They campaigned on performance… so I think they should continue in this mode,” McDonald added.

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