How to measure the ministers
The Prime Minister indicated recently that her proposed Cabinet re-shuffle would be based on an assessment of her ministers' performance to date. One must therefore conclude that performance targets were allocated to each minister as well as the required resources. How else will the PM measure the performance of ministers? The Sunday Express "MP Monitor" has so far reflected a mixed bag regarding the performance of Members of Parliament, on both sides.
For example, I have lived in Glencoe for 21 years and never seen Dr Keith Rowley on any walkabout in my community and since I am unaware of his contribution to improving his constituency, my rating of his performance as an MP would be fairly low. So without any evidence to the contrary, I have used a purely subjective perception to rate Dr Rowley.
However, the flaw with my rating and my concern with the PM's anticipated assessment of ministers, is the lack of clear criteria for measurement of performance and the evidence that will be used to support the proposed assessment.
For example, how will Minister Cadiz's performance be measured given that one of the core mandates of his Ministry is to facilitate diversification of the economy? Will he be assessed based on the performance of the T&T Film Company, that is, jobs created in the film industry over the last two years or revenue generated by the industry? What about the T&T Entertainment Company? How many jobs have been created or revenue contributed to GDP etc. What about the education (MOE and MSTTE) ministers? Did they have performance targets? Will the PM be looking at participation rates and/or achievement rates and/or rates of dropouts? Quality of curriculum delivery? Number of school protests?
And what about the replacement players? How will the PM assess the performance of ministers who were shuffled or newly appointed within the last year or so: Gender, Youth and Child Development, Energy, Health, Public Administration, Planning and the Economy, Transport? Surely, the same assessment will not be used, given the relatively short period during which these individuals have managed their respective portfolios?
Maybe this is the crux of the issue: what can one realistically expect ministers to achieve within one year or even two? If we have not diversified the economy away from oil and gas in over 30 years of talking about it, what can we expect in two years? Well at the very least, all ministers should communicate their plan for achieving T&T's development targets with some annual progress milestones. Further, each minister should be required to account to the population on his/her performance. I am not referring here to the annual budget farce where ministers speechify about the amount of money spent in their respective Ministries. No! Each Minister needs to account to the population about the effectiveness of specific interventions and plans to improve performance.
So the Minister of Food Production might report that little progress has been made on reducing the food import bill, however several innovative strategies are in the process of being implemented and which on completion (by x year) should result in X percentage increase in specific produce and by extension reduced imports.
Similarly, the Minister of Social Development could give an assessment of the Ministry's interventions to reduce poverty by 2015 including the performance of the conditional cash transfer and other programmes aimed at poverty alleviation and their effectiveness to date.
The input of citizens and specifically users of Government services should also be taken into account in assessing performance.
The "new politics'' demands that we move away from what many perceive as "re-shuffle by personal whim'' to an evidenced based approach that facilitates accountability not only to the PM but to the people.