The Cabinet that I have chosen has been very carefully structured and in my judgment it is what is necessary, it is what is appropriate for the challenges that face us at this time.
There have been some comments about the size of the Cabinet. We have in fact increased the number of Ministries from 14 to 15, and to those 15 Ministries have been assigned 18 Ministers of Cabinet rank.
The issue of size is relative. If we look in the Caribbean at countries that are smaller than Jamaica, and I am not even looking at the very small ones, but if you look at Guyana, which has a much smaller population than we do, Guyana has 23 members in its Cabinet.
In the case of Trinidad, that country has 24 members in the Cabinet and it would have been good, it would have been politically correct to try look at the number that would satisfy the concerns of big government. An 18- member Cabinet does not necessarily signify big government. I am mindful of the enormous expectation that exists about the government that I lead.
I am very very aware of the specific commitments we made to the people of Jamaica, we are determined to fulfill them and therefore in my judgment, there was need for me to ensure that there was adequate policy direction in order to ensure that the government would focus on the variety of tasks that we need to fulfill, in order to make good on the commitments that we gave and the mandate that we have received.
I have chosen not to establish a super ministry, because I believe when a ministry is overloaded the Minister with responsibility is overloaded; some things fall through the cracks and therefore when I look at a Ministry that encompasses road, works, water and housing, all of which are so critical to the lives of the Jamaican people, I took a decision that that would be split and we now have two separate Cabinet Ministers bearing portfolio responsibilities for what was originally one Ministry.
To the extent that any super Ministry exists, one may regard the Office of the Prime Minister, because I have assign to that Ministry responsibility for Planning and Development. I have done so deliberately because the business of planning, the business of facilitating development, driving all the processes that are involved is so critical to the future of this country, that I felt that it needed the authority of the Prime Minister. Hence I have located responsibilities for those two subjects within the Prime Minister's Office.
I want to speak briefly but very specifically about Local Government because some comments have been made. Understood, because the government is being put into place and not until Monday will everything unfold, so that people will be able to look at the government and the Political Directorate in its entirety.
This government and this Prime Minister in particular, are committed to the principles of local government. But I feel very strongly that what we have practised for many years as local government is neither local nor governmental.
Local government representatives are not an extension of Central Government. They are not an attachment to our mandate. The ballot paper on which we were elected did not include them. They were elected on their own separate ballot paper with their own mandate. Therefore I have always considered it to be a contradiction to speak about local government, where people are elected directly by the people. They did not ask central government to nominate them and yet having been elected by the people, we install a Ministry of Local Government in central government that tells them what to do and what they are allowed to do. Both of them are a contradiction and I made it clear before the election that once we became the government, we would abolish the Ministry of Local Government, because we are going to liberate the local government system.
It needs much more work. We have been talking for a long time about local government reform, some reforms have been instituted but there has been a reticence and unwillingness to let it go, to give the people's representative at the local level the authority that the people thought they had invested in them.
We are going to do it, but it is going to need capacity building because as the local government authorities exist at the moment, I do not consider that they have the institutional capacity to carry out the functions that the people expect them to perform. Therefore, the process of capacity building, institutional development is going to have to continue, but we are going to put it on a fast track and therefore it is not that we have abolished local government.
What I have done is that I have assigned to the PM responsibility for local government. It will be housed in the Office of the Prime Minister and on Monday when the Ministers of State are sworn in, one of those Ministers of State will be assigned specific responsibility to drive the local government reform process to bring it to a stage where the local authorities can now function as the freely elected authorities that they are.
I have sought to put together a Cabinet that blends experience with youthful energy without careless exuberation. I consider it to be more than a Cabinet, it is a team and I have spend a long sojourn in Opposition. During that long period in Opposition, we were not just engaged in critical analysis of what we felt was wrong, what we felt was not in the interests of the good management of the affairs of the country, but in that period in Opposition we crafted our own vision of what we feel Jamaica can become and it is that vision that is informing and driving the policies that we take into government.
The appointment of these 17 Ministers reflect my commitment in them, my confidence in their ability and my confidence in their commitment, first in your county and then to me. I expect great things of you, the Jamaican people expect great things of you and therefore together we cannot afford to let down the people of Jamaica.
I propose to hold, as soon as we leave here, indeed let's set it at 1 o'clock; I propose to have an informal meeting with the Cabinet at the Cabinet Office at Jamaica House. The first formal meeting of the Cabinet will be at 11 o'clock on Monday. I had a meeting yesterday with all Permanent Secretaries, they have all prepared the necessary briefs.
Ministers, it is going to be a lot of reading material for you over the weekend.
I have asked the Permanent Secretaries and they stand ready to brief you on matters that may be urgent, indeed there have been some matters that have been so urgent that they have had to brief me even prior to the appointment of the Ministers themselves. They are matters that may require urgent decisions and therefore I want all Ministers to have themselves properly briefed by the Permanent Secretaries this afternoon.
I am sure that most, if not all of you have members of your family here because I know it must be a special occasion for you and therefore I will allow you to go and have lunch with your families after you have met with me, but be at your desk by 3 o'clock.
The motto of one of the schools that tolerated me, Jamaica College,is:
Floreat collegium, fervet opus in campis
May the college flourish, work is burning in
Let's go and do the people's work that awaits us to do.