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These are the dog days of summer

These are the dog days of summer when the heat and humidity tends to get to us all. So I wasn't too surprised when one astute reader drew me up on my pointed comments last week over the difference between full-time and part-time cabinet ministers.

Everyone understands that the part-timers work part time and full-timers full time at their jobs and that explains why some are paid part-time and the others full-time, and that's that, I was told. But that's a gloss on the issue, dear reader. What inquiring minds want to know is what is expected of a full-time Minister as compared to a part-timer.

Are cabinet ministers who elect to draw full-time salaries required to devote all of their working time to their Ministries and/or divest themselves of all other business interests and/or are they still permitted to work at and/or attend to those outside interests?

The part-timers, one presumes, are permitted to work at both of their day jobs. One presumes because we do not know. We do not know because we are not told. That's also my beef, in response to another reader who didn't understand why I went on about this.

It isn't just because of the difference in salary, although there is that. The introduction of the two kinds of ministers was originally a concern of the then Opposition when the two categories of Ministers were first adopted under the then PLP Government. There was no rationale advanced back then in support of the distinction or, more precisely any guidelines as to what should be expected and/or required of each category of minister.

It seems that the difference and the election of part-time or full-time has become a private matter for the Premier and the individual ministers concerned. The rest of us can only guess, surmise and speculate. I happen to think we ought to be able to do better than that.

By the way, it is also more than a matter of interest to note here what the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968 has to say on the issue. Ministers are expected “to exercise general direction and control” over Government departments within their Ministries, and, subject to such ministerial direction and control, those departments are under “the supervision” of a public officer, aka a Permanent Secretary: s. 61(5).

One might argue all Ministers were intended to be part-time; although that was back in 1968, some 45 years ago when our Government was of a far different size and budget. But hey, maybe there is a correlation here that will not escape the attention of the SAGE Commission in their search for ways we can downsize and save money. Who knows? The Commission may well choose to start at the top before working their way down.

I love a joke as much as the next person — even when it is at my own expense; maybe. So for those who thought I may be on drugs as opposed to dreaming last week or suffering from heat exhaustion, I say this: no problem. It reminds me of one of those funnier one liners that often punctuate debate on the subject: Drug test him and if he isn't on drugs, he ought to be!

Speaking of which, I have been asked what I think of the Government's approach on the issue of drug-testing. Not much. It seems to me that if the OBA believes that drug-testing (presumably testing for illicit drugs and not PEDs) is important so as “to strengthen our democratic institutions”, the proposed policy ought to be brought to the Legislature for adoption by all members, and not established exclusively for Government members in the first instance as currently proposed with an invitation to join if others so wish. If it's political points that they are looking to score, they can still be scored when it comes to debate and adoption in the Legislature, and it is a debate worth having frankly when you consider the approaches that are starting to be adopted in other jurisdictions not just with respect to drug testing but with respect to enforcement and treatment as well.

Finally, if I didn't know better I would have said that it was starting to look like there was a cleverly orchestrated campaign afoot to introduce gambling forthwith. I know better. It wasn't particularly clever. Government has distanced itself already by reaffirming its commitment to a public vote on the issue. In politics it's not always a matter of being careful what you wish for but of what you promise as well.

n Share your views. Write to jbarritt@ibl.bm.

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Published August 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated August 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm)

These are the dog days of summer

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