By George Alleyne
Armed with a House of Assembly full of her members of parliament, Prime Minister Mia Mottley, spread out the work of cabinet among 27 of them while adding a few more job titles for maximum exploitation of Barbados’ resources.
So it was that on Sunday, a mere three days after winning all 30 parliamentary seats in the island’s general elections that 26 of her Cabinet of Ministers were sworn into serve in a ceremony set beside the sea on the Bay Street Esplanade.
Though 26 were sworn in this open-air ceremony, Mottley herself along with her Attorney General, Dale Marshall, were sworn in Friday as is constitutionally required immediately after elections results were announced.
“The cabinet of ministers will be relatively large because I’ve not only considered the mandate given to us by the people but also the scope of the work to be done and the level of expertise that is at our disposal among elected members,” Mottley had explained the previous day.
The prime minister said Sunday that she will be holding her ministers to high standards of efficiency and productivity, so she shared the workload across a most of the MPs, “rather than conform to the theory of a small cabinet thus creating an unrealistic setting for members to function effectively and produce in this prevailing environment.”
“Given the state of our economy and the tremendous work that will be involved in rescuing and rebuilding this country, the salaries of a couple extra ministers is relatively insignificant, given that there will be tremendous savings from the containment of wastage and the curtailment of corruption.”
Of the 26 ministers sworn in, three are Senators as required by the island’s constitution.
Against the backdrop of an economy floundering for many years, and the social disorder that continuous recession brings with it, she made clear that her team has to get to work immediately.
Having already had meetings with disgruntled trade union heads and other leaders of society Saturday, Mottley said at the ceremony that the cabinet will be meeting twice weekly instead of the customary once a week.
“There is no time for pause and there is certainly no place for triumphalism and exhortation. We have serious work to do and serious problems to solve.”
Among her main pledges were, reinstating regular post-cabinet briefings to keep the public informed; enacting Freedom Of Information legislation; removing provision barring senior public servants from speaking to the media; introducing ‘Question Time’ for ministers from fellow parliamentarians and the public; placing priority on issues of the south coast sewerage system that has seen sewage spilling onto roads and yards for almost two years; and having all cabinet members declare their assets, to be kept by the Clerk of Parliament until integrity legislation is passed.
Speaking before a large audience that included three Eastern Caribbean prime ministers, Keith Mitchell of Grenada; Allan Chastanet of St. Lucia; and Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mottley made clear that her government will press for greater and faster CARICOM integration.
Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, had earlier joined his prime ministerial colleagues in a lunch meeting with Mottley but had to leave before the evening’s swearing-in ceremony.
Making it clear that her government has no place for possible wrong-doing by her ministers, she told them of her willingness to cross the floor of House of Assembly and lead an opposition to the government she now heads if they go astray.
“I have already warned some of my parliamentary members that if I ever find it necessary, in the interest of fair play, and balance I am perfectly willing to convert myself into the most formidable leader of opposition to this government”.