Going-brave shuffle in PM's own style
Over the four long weeks since she promised "reconfiguration" of her Cabinet, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had not been twiddling her thumbs. This she sought to make clear on Friday as she announced changes of ministers and reworkings of their portfolios.
The Prime Minister claimed to have consulted widely, to have canvassed opinion from "all sectors", to have interviewed candidates and weighed presentations. When she finally made her selections, she was convinced they comprise "talents and resources harnessed from people across all boundaries". As leader of a coalition, however, she ominously avoided mention of consultation with partner parties.
Going brave is now established as the political style of Ms Persad-Bissessar. She has waved away national and international concerns about the fitness for ministerial office of fallen FIFA executive Jack Warner. Gambling on his identification as an early-rising "action" man, she thrust him into the starring role in the biggest theatre of all—National Security—with implicit expectations of applying his can-do credentials to the timely achievement of a turnaround in crime and law enforcement.
Opposition Leader Keith Rowley will not be alone in drawing conclusions from the Prime Minister's conspicuous changes in ministries addressed to the headline issues of crime and the economy. To Brigadier John Sandy she addressed a fitting send-off as a "dedicated soldier", who will now take up diplomatic duties. After battling with two deficit budgets, the CLICO meltdown, and sluggish economic performance, Winston Dookeran will move from Finance to Foreign Affairs.
Their track records in security and finance had accorded them stellar recognition as ministers. Their achievements must be seen to have fallen short of meeting high expectations their appointments two years ago had encouraged.
Attention will no doubt focus on Larry Howai, assuming a Finance portfolio that now includes the Economy, and special responsibility for Caribbean Airlines. Former chief executive of banking group First Citizens and chairman of National Gas Company, both State-owned and both successful, Mr Howai deserves welcome as a sober, steady-handed, financial maven, whose presence is capable of restoring much-needed business confidence in T&T economic prospects.
Ms Persad-Bissessar's second round of Cabinet changes come with stern injunctions for those who have ears to hear. She communicates a disposition of intolerance for "mediocrity" and "arrogance", urging instead an approach recognised as "humble", "passionate" and heedful of "good procedures".
The work is cut out for members of the newly reorganised People's Partnership administration management team. "Cabinet must deliver a level of competence and performance for an impatient and expectant population," the Prime Minister said, acknowledging a national mood of zero tolerance for anything else.
Conceding thereby that "competence" and "performance" have fallen short, Ms Persad-Bissessar also determined that communication deserved better handling. All eyes turn to the new Minister and Ministry of Communication, but it is the Prime Minister who will either be exalted or damned by how this and other changes turn out.