The "independent" Joseph Isaac and the need to slim down Skerrit's Cabinet, not getting it more obese
Well, Joseph Isaac, you're a minister now and we have concluded that since you believed that it was unlikely that you would ever achieve your dream of becoming a minister of government as a member of the opposition United Workers Party you decided, some say conspired with the Roosevelt Skerrit administration, to throw your party under the bus. Good luck for your political future, my friend.
But Isaac, don't ever use that word "independent" again in the context of your future public response to government's programmes and policies. If you continue to say you are independent, you are unashamedly insulting the intelligence of Dominicans. No one has been, no one will ever be, no one will dare express his or her independence in a Roosevelt Skerrit administration. That would be suicidal.
Again, Isaac, who ever told you that you have to be in anybody's Cabinet or even endorse anybody's programme and policy for you to support the development of your country? This perception, encouraged by the ruling party especially after Hurricane Maria, that critics of government's policies and programmes are being unpatriotic, are acting like traitors, are even committing high treason is nonsensical. It is an ingenious ruse to make the opposition appear to be impotent. Isaac, my friend, you of all people should know that the actual traitors are the people who perceive that a nation is going down the slippery slope to economic and social ruin and then look the other way, or worse, stay silent. These are the people who are unpatriotic.
On that subject, recall that James Baldwin, the famous African American, said: "I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."
Another American, President Theodore Roosevelt, said "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else."
So, Isaac, an opposition, unless it is in a coalition relationship with a government, must criticise that government as severely and consistently as it can. And unless we are no longer a democratic nation, the opposition (including the press) must be allowed to do its job because Government must be made to account, government must be transparent, and government must uphold the constitution and the rule of law.
By the way Isaac, have you observed that you are the 19th minister in the Cabinet of the ruling Dominica Labour Party? What is your view on that "obese" Cabinet; correction, what is your NEW view, because the United Workers Party that you were part of, have commented "negatively" on the size of the Skerrit Cabinet.
Isaac, remember that in his budget address for the 2010 – 2011 fiscal year, Prime Minister Skerrit told Dominicans that his government would make concerted efforts to raise production because "Dominica's response to its development challenges will hinge critically on our capacities for increased productivity at all levels of society".
Later on in that speech, Prime Minister Skerrit revealed that his government would signal its seriousness about the need to influence a change of Dominicans' attitude to work by establishing a "Productivity Council of Dominica." But seven years after he made that declaration, we have heard nothing more about the formation of that council.
But that council is even more important now that Hurricane Maria destroyed Dominica's economy and infrastructure and, most importantly, we are told that our national objective is to build back better.
So even though it is extremely late we look forward to the inauguration of that productivity council. Meanwhile, we propose that the council's mandate should include an overview of the size and function of Mr. Skerrit's cabinet and especially the rational for hiring Isaac in an already bloated Cabinet of ministers. If we are serious about boosting productivity we must start making effective changes at the top of the administration.
Undoubtedly, we expect that Prime Minister Skerrit will shoot down any suggestion that his cabinet is too large. But few persons will take seriously government's call for an improvement in productivity in the public and private sectors unless the prime minister leads by example by reducing the cost of operating the Cabinet and government by trimming the extremely large number of advisors, permanent secretaries and ministers. For example, do we at this juncture need a minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs and why can't Catherine Daniel, or any other minister in that large cabinet, take on the responsibility for the environment?
And most importantly, can the nation afford the luxury of having 19 ministries at this point after Hurricane Maria when we should be tightening our belts? By the way, we have just begged the Organisation of American States (OAS) to defer our minor debt of about $200, 000. Recall that Trinidad embarrassed itself by not readily agreeing with other members of the OAS that we really need the concession. Then we wastefully proceed to employ Isaac just to make the political opposition weaker.
In that 2011 budget address Mr. Skerrit suggested that if we are to move Dominica to the next level of economic prosperity some "seismic shifts in the way we do business in this country" is absolutely necessary. We agree. And add that if we are to build back stronger after Maria and realise that dream of creating the first climate resilient nation we have to stop playing party politics with tax payer's money.
Cabinet's major function, we suggest, is to define policy in which the public sector must operate. Cabinet is expected to provide overall management of the various agencies in the public sector and establish synergy in the operations of various ministries.
But instead of restricting itself to defining policy and monitoring and evaluating the implementation of these policies, the Dominica cabinet is usually extremely busy performing mundane activities such as the appointment of low level personnel and debating which private sector company should get concessions.
In support of that view a former cabinet secretary said that "over fifty percent" of the time of the cabinet "is spent deliberating on routine matters that impact relatively minimally on the viability of the country".
The point we need to stress here is that if Mr. Skerrit earnestly wants to improve production and productivity in the public sector, in particular, he must begin by reducing the size of his cabinet. At this crucial stage of its development, Dominica needs more limber, more effective and more productive decision-making entities. Not more ministers like Isaac.