CMC: BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Members of the new Cabinet will still have to declare their assets to serve, despite the absence of integrity legislation, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced Wednesday as Members of Cabinet, the House of Assembly, Senate, and Parliamentary Secretaries were sworn in, a week after the Barbados Labour Party’s clean sweep at the polls.
Mottley said she remained hopeful that there would be the passing of integrity legislation on the third attempt to bring it before Parliament.
“The first time was under the Tom Adams administration. It did not get past the Senate, having gotten past the elected members in the House of Assembly. In the last term, it did not get past the Senate again, having gotten past the elected members of the House of Assembly,” she said.
However, she noted, a modern Corruption Act was passed, as well as the Whistleblowers Act and Deferred Prosecution Act, which gave additional powers to law enforcement and prosecution officials.
“I repeat, there is zero-tolerance for both corruption and arrogance in this administration,” the prime minister maintained.
She highlighted that recent reports described Barbados as being among the top 30 countries in the world that were least corrupt, and as the least corrupt Caribbean nation.
During Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony at State House, Dr William Duguid was named as an additional member of Mottley’s Cabinet. The former Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance in the last administration now serves as senior minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, with specific responsibilities for coordinating all infrastructural projects.
That, Mottley said, would also include having the day-to-day responsibility of all town planning matters.
Dr Duguid joins four other Senior Ministers. They are Deputy Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw, who has coordinating responsibility for Infrastructure and is Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources and Leader of Government Business; Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Dale Marshall, who is Senior Minister coordinating for Governance in the Cabinet; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, and Senior Minister Coordinating for all Social and Environmental Policy Senator Dr Jerome Walcott; and Minister of Energy and Business Development, and Senior Minister coordinating the Productive Sectors, Kerrie Symmonds.
Her new Cabinet of 21 is three ministers fewer than the last one.
Noting that the traditional structure of Cabinet did not work in small island developing states, the prime minister explained that those who served in small countries had to do more “heavy lifting” than their counterparts.
“We have chosen to break new ground in a smaller Cabinet, but in the sharing of the burden, for as you know, I truly believe many hands make light work. It is against that backdrop, therefore, that I welcome the four senior coordinating ministers and the deputy prime minister to carry the burden…and most difficult challenges facing any post-independent government in this country,” she said.
Mottley stressed that growth must continue to be the first order of business, and it was critical for persons to come to work every day to help with Government’s capital programmes.
Meantime, the prime minister said she and her team are willing to look “outside of the box” to tackle the Omicron variant as the cases continue to rise globally and in Barbados.
She said she is also committed to tackling the climate crisis, and chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs), which continue to impact society.
Giving a snapshot of the issues high on her administration’s agenda, she told the audience that the first meeting, following the swearing-in ceremony, will be with the new Minister of Health and Wellness, Ian Gooding-Edghill, and the Minister of State in the Ministry, Dr Sonia Browne, the coordinating minister for social and environmental matters, and the technical officials, “recognising that we may have to think outside of the box on a number of things because we do not fight this pandemic as a single source issue”.
“We also fight it as part of a global community that has seen a significant disruption in the supply chain and therefore our capacity to access things as basic as tests, right through to other aspects, continue to be issues with which we must be continuously engaged as we go forward,” she said.
Mottley shared that the latest information, from advisors at the “highest level” in the Pan American Health Organization and literature she received last week, suggested that between October 2021 and the end of March this year “it is anticipated that half of the world’s population, or to be more precise, more than 3.5 billion people will, in fact, contract COVID-19, and particularly the Omicron variant”.
Although noting that health officials had predicted that Omicron was not as serious as the Delta variant, Mottley gave the undertaking that her government would respond appropriately to the risks and reminded Barbadians to exercise personal responsibility and restraint in their actions.
Touching on the climate crisis, she said the government’s Roofs to Reefs Project was critical in this regard, in light of the 2,500 families displaced last year as a result of the freak storm and Hurricane Elsa.
She disclosed that 90 percent of the families who lost their homes or sustained damage by the two climatic events were below the poverty line, and pledged the government’s commitment to resettle all Barbadians that had been impacted.
Mottley stated: “It is for that reason that the government’s efforts on the Roofs to Reefs Project remain a critical part of this government’s new agenda because we must seek to ensure that every Barbadian household is as prepared as they can be, to fight the ravages of the climate crisis over the course of the next decade.”
“What does that mean? That we have to strengthen the quality of our housing and our rooftops; that we have to ensure that every Barbadian household has the capacity to keep water available to their household and that we must make sure that keeping water includes the absolute commitment to conserve water in our midst because there is a genuine shortage of groundwater across the globe.”
Regarding CNCDs, the prime minister proffered the view that it remained one of the greatest threats to the stability of the country.
It was, for this reason, the prime minister said that there is a minister of state in the Ministry of Health, with responsibility for the day-to-day functioning of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and CNCDs.
She reasoned that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital continued to see an increasing number of persons whose condition, if brought under control, would result in a significant reduction in the numbers requiring critical treatment and care in the health care system.