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The Cabinet shuffle

Premier Paula Cox promised she would make a bold move in her speech at the Progressive Labour Party banquet and she delivered with a sweeping Cabinet shuffle yesterday. Whether it is the right move remains to be seen.

Ms Cox would presumably say that after a year as Premier she now has the measure of her Ministers and now knows where they are best suited. But to make seven Ministry changes is a very large number after just one year.

The biggest surprise is the decision to drop Terry Lister. Mr Lister, who was Ms Cox’s main competitor for the PLP leadership last year, has, to some extent been a victim of circumstances.

Mr Lister has faced a number of difficult tasks in Transport and worked very hard to solve them. In particular, he was tasked with revising the bus schedule, something which defeated former Premier Dr Ewart Brown, and ran up against the Bermuda Industrial Union at its most intractable. That and other efforts to get the Ministry’s staff to serve the public efficiently have led to a series of confrontations, and he has rarely had the backing of the whole Government.

Mr Lister also seemed to be one of the few Ministers genuinely trying to run his Ministry in budget, and this caused some labour problems as well. It may be that Carnival Cruises’ decision not to come to Bermuda in 2012 played a role in his demise.

Presumably, Ms Cox hopes that former BIU president Derrick Burgess will be better able to resolve labour issues in Transport, but the question will be whether he is too close to the union to accomplish that.

The economy’s loss is justice’s gain with the move of Senator Kim Wilson back to the Attorney General’s office. Sen Wilson was an excellent Attorney General but also very quickly gained the respect of all sides in the Economy Ministry. Presumably Ms Cox feels she better serves the Minister as AG, and on that basis, moving her last year looks like a mistake.

It is difficult to know what to make of Patrice Minors’ move from Tourism and Business Development to Economy. It may have been forced by Sen Wilson’s move, but it is regrettable that there should be a change in tourism now when a great deal is happening. But Ms Cox may also have been dissatisfied at the slow pace of change, something many industry leaders would share.

What is of concern with such a sweeping set of moves is that the new Ministers will take some time to get their feet under their desks and in both Mr Furbert’s case and in Marc Bean’s, there are pressing matters which will need decisions and actions quickly.

Mr Bean will be thrown into the Digicel controversy immediately, which gets more muddled by the day. And he must also push forward on telecommunications reform which is years behind schedule. It is surprising that telecommunications was not moved, for example to Economy or Tourism and Business Development because it is not a natural fit with environment.

History will judge whether Ms Cox now has the right team in the right place and it is critical that they get down to work quickly. But she does leave herself open to the criticism that she made poor choices a year ago which she must now fix.

The Progressive Labour Party Premier and Party Leader Paula Cox, The Hon. Derrick V. Burgess Deputy Premier, Dame Jennifer Smith and Minister Walter Roban. (Photo by Akil Simmons) November 2,2011

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Published November 03, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated November 03, 2011 at 10:33 am)

The Cabinet shuffle

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