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Striking right balance
Admission of failure in the two most crucial areas of governance in this period of the country’s history—national security, and finance and economic development—was the most salient aspect of the Prime Minister’s “reconfiguration” exercise. Question is: did the promised “reconfiguration” amount to more than a mere reshuffle of ministers? Can it achieve the objective of meeting the transformational needs of the economy, society and polity?
Did it go beyond the demotion of a few who have performed badly either in their actual portfolios or in some related area? Was it more than the opportunity to fire a brigadier who found crime-fighting to be beyond soldering? Was the reconfiguration used to sacrifice Verna St Rose-Greaves to lodge Coudray into ministerial office and so free-up the San Fernando mayorship to heal the still open wound of COP anger?
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar faced a few political realities: she had to avoid the appear- ance of the naked UNC “grab for political power” of the last reshuffle and she was driven to do so in the face of the departure of coalition partner the Movement for Social Justice and the fact that in its reaction statement to the MSJ leaving, the Congress of the People made it clear that “it shares some of the concerns of the MSJ.”
The Prime Minister also had to service the commitment to the Tobago Organisation of the People to achieve the objective of removing the PNM from the Tobago House of Assembly; removing the injudicious Toppin-Alleyne from the front line was an initiative towards that end.
The Prime Minister has to achieve all of this and more if the People’s Partnership is to continue to legitimately tag itself as a coalition representative of the ethnicities, geography, political-party orientation, economic and social interests. But while the PM has to shore up coalition interests, as political leader of the dominant UNC she had to keep her base happy. She did so by inserting a few potential new candidates for the 2015 election, just in case the UNC has to go it alone.
But beyond all of the above, the reconfiguration must have had the objective, if not design, of reconstituting an executive and developing structures to achieve the critical election promises. The Prime Minister did well (visually) in striking the right balance between a figure of assurance (even if at times betraying a worried look) without seeming to give off a feel of arrogance and know-it-all posture.
She even admitted the obvious, that much has not been achieved. In this respect she must have learnt well from the displays of empty arrogance put on by her predecessor, Patrick Manning. In removing the esteemed economist Dookeran from managing the economy, the Prime Minister tacitly admitted disappointment and signalled her belief that the locomotive was not ignited to achieve the expected transformation of the economy.
But taking into consideration the need to heal the conflictual relationship with the COP, the PM afforded Dookeran something of a cushioned landing in the prestigious position of Minister of Foreign Affairs. The man chosen to succeed Dookeran is an unknown in transformational political-economy terms. It is one thing for Larry Howai to lead the successful recovery of a vitally important indigenous bank and another to undertake this assignment, to transform an economy that has been in decline and “slump” for three consecutive years—and to do so in the context of a world economy that is in deep agony.
This seemingly gentle banker could find himself with a challenge that could keep him awake for the next three years … or less, depending on success or failure. No Dookeran-like soft landing, however, for former foreign minister Suruj Rambachan. He was allowed to hit the ground with an almighty thud from the high-flying world traveller and adviser to the Prime Minister in world capitals and major international conferences. Rambachan also lost his role as chief propagandist and media bully for the Government.
Instead he has been given the job to prepare the ground for the local-government elections. The Rambachan vs Lee Sing battle will match two street fighters in a street-and-drain war. Jack Warner, “de action man of politics,” the “minister of everything …de minister who doh sleep,” has been given the most difficult job in the country today and there will be the cynics who may be seeing this as a strategy to finally bury him. Warner will no doubt summon all his reserve to seek to confound his critics and to achieve what no predecessor has, ie, dismantle the criminal infrastructure.
n To be continued
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