REGIONAL: PM Mottley announces changes to Cabinet

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(Barbados Today) – Prime Minister Mia Mottley this evening trimmed her large Cabinet by three, axing five and calling up a young senator and a former backbencher to join the administration.

Long-standing party colleague George Payne was one of those relieved of ministerial portfolio while Senator Lisa Cummins, the Chairman of the Barbados Port Inc. has been elevated as the new Minister of Tourism while Chairman of the Transport Board Ian Gooding-Edghill will now take over the reins of the Ministry of Transport, Works and Water Resources.

Along with the shake-up in portfolios, the Prime Minister announced the proroguing of the Parliament of Barbados on August 8 and the reconvening of the new session on September 15 when there will be a new mandate set out in a Throne Speech by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason.

During a live address to the nation from Ilaro Court, Mottley announced the removal of Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Public Affairs Senator Lucille Moe; Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson; Trevor Prescod, who held the portfolio of Minister of the Environment and National Beautification, Payne, the Barbados Labour Party stalwart who ran the Ministry of Housing of Housing, Lands and Rural Development and Neil Rowe, a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs.

The Prime Minister also made several other changes, the most notable being Kerrie Symmonds’, the St James Central parliamentarian who has been switched to the portfolio of Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship from the high-profiled Ministry of Tourism and International Transport. Minister Wilfred Abrahams, who led the Minister of Energy and Water Resources now takes over as Minister of Home Affairs while former Minister of Transport William Duguid is the new Minister of Housing and Lands.

Former Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture John King will move to the Prime Minister’s office.

The remaining members of the Cabinet including AG Dale Marshall, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw, Minister of Health Dr Jeffrey Bostic, Minister of International Business Ronald Toppin, Minister of Labour Colin Jordan, Minister of People Empowerment Cynthia Forde, Minister of the Blue Economy and Ministers in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and FInance Marsha Caddle and Ryan Straughn maintained their portfolios.

In explaining the reason behind the reshuffle, the Prime Minister said there was a need for Government to take “fresh guard” and particularly so in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Government itself is readying and repositioning itself for the challenges that confront us and for those that we anticipate will present themselves in the coming months and years. COVID will be with us for a little while and we have to plan our defence not only with respect to the health aspects of it but also with respect to the consequences of the economy and the quality of life for all Barbadians,” Mottley said.

“My first point of introspection, therefore, is my Cabinet. Being Prime Minister, believe you me, has its challenges and among them is the need to ever so often step aside and to watch, observe, to analyze, to consider how best we may operate in the circumstances that present themselves to us, circumstances that we are seeing both with COVID and with the storm that are beyond our natural control.

“I’ve had the benefit of two years of watching and observing and I have also had the responsibility of preparing and planning for the uncharted path that lies ahead,” she added.

The reshuffle has been given the thumbs up by political scientist Peter Wickham, who said it was both timely and merited.

Speaking to Barbados TODAY moments after the changes were announced, Wickham said he was in full agreement.

In fact, he said Mottley’s timing could not have been better.

“I like it for two reasons. I think one, it sends a signal that she is concerned with issues of the economy at this time and I think coming out of COVID it is quite appropriate that she should respond in this way and I do think it is merited because we are approaching the halfway point and this would be a good time to make changes to retool, to ensure that everything is working as well as it should towards the end of the political life of the first government. So for that reason I think it is perfect,” Wickham said.

He said of the four ministers who were sacked, Hinkson’s axing was the most concerning.

Wickham explained that both Prescod and Payne were near the end of their political careers, while there was no “political risk” associated with Moe’s dismissal.

However, he said Hinkson’s situation was somewhat interesting.

“Edmund Hinkson is probably the most curious. You are looking at someone who is a relatively successful lawyer, someone who is quite young in politics and someone who can easily be another Liz Thompson in that he can leave Cabinet and return at a later date to serve a role,” Wickham pointed out.

“The reality is that he is young enough to be able to recover and he is a professional so he can take care of himself. The most important thing is that he is not running in a seat where there is any likelihood of him losing it so that will also be a factor.”

Wickham noted that Symmond’s new ministry “was not a particularly bad place to be” as he could prove useful with his legal training.

He suggested that Cummins was elevated to her new post based on her outstanding work done with the Port during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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