April 8, 2001
The fact that it is taking so long for the President to name a
cabinet is not suggestive of unanimity within the governing party.
Like the PNC, however, the PPP has reached a crossroads. If they are
serious about the future of the country and if they are serious about
the long-term future of their own party, then they would recognize
that the formula of the past eight-and-a-half years is in need of
amendment. Sober-minded groups and individuals in the society are
calling for 'inclusion,' although what that will signify in practice
has yet to be worked out. 'Inclusion ' at the cabinet level has been
ruled out by Mr Hoyte; however, that should not mean that the PPP has
the freedom to foist more-or-less the same complement of ministers on
the nation as we have had since 1992. The President's choice of
cabinet will be an important signal as to whether we might be inching
towards a new political era or whether we are to remain mired in the
same old political bog.
The last thing that Guyana needs at this stage is ministers whose only qualification for office is loyalty and service to party. If that is what we are going to get, then it will hardly generate confidence, and it will announce to the electorate, no matter what is said to the contrary, that party comes before country. The PPP has had a poor record over the last two terms in identifying and rewarding competence; it is as if they have been more comfortable with mediocrity. Yet no modern society can function, let alone develop, without skilled personnel - beginning, it must be said, with the highest level in government. The nation is suffering from a serious dearth of skills, and no one party has a monopoly on talent. In fact, the shortage is so severe, that any government has to be prepared to mobilize all qualified personnel within the country irrespective of political persuasion, and that cannot be done by a cabinet stocked with political hardliners.
A less than stellar minister is unlikely to surround him or herself with talent on account of insecurity, and by extension he or she will also be more disposed to rely on the cocoon provided by the party and its personnel. In addition, ministers who are tightly knotted to the party apron strings may lack the flexibility of approach which our current circumstances demand. Not only do we require institutional mechanisms which would allow for inclusiveness, but we also need appointees, particularly in government, who have the capacity to listen to other viewpoints and engage in genuine dialogue with those who may not be perceived to reflect a PPP outlook.
Unfortunately, already the new government has not struck quite the right note where appointments are concerned. As noted in yesterday's editorial in this newspaper, Dr Roger Luncheon's return to the post of Head of the Presidential Secretariat did not supply evidence of much imagination or political sagacity. As was suggested in our Saturday edition, Dr Luncheon's duties could have been redefined to make it clear that he did not hold responsibility for the civil service, and following consultation with the Public Service Union a suitable person could have been named. As it is, however, the administration has conveyed the impression that political control is still paramount in its mind, a situation which is hardly conducive either to a policy of inclusiveness or to an efficient public service. One can only hope that this is a situation which is still capable of remedy.
In the meantime, the nation waits to hear the names which President Jagdeo will announce tomorrow. The composition of the cabinet will say a great deal about the new administration's real intentions.