Prime Minister Dean Barrow announces new Cabinet

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 7            February 14, 2008

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Right Honorable Dean Barrow - Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Gaspar Vega – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment

Erwin Contreras, second UDP deputy – Minister of Economic Development, Commerce, Industry and Consumer Protection

Manuel Heredia Jr. – Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation

Patrick Faber – Minister of Education

Carlos Perdomo – Minister of National Security

Michael Finnegan – Minister of Housing and Urban Development

Wilfred Elrington – Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade

Anthony “Boots” Martinez – Minister of Works

Pablo Marin – Minister of Health

Gabriel Martinez – Minister of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development

John Saldivar – Minister of Public Service, Governance Improvement and Elections and Boundaries

Rene Montero – Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries

Melvin Hulse – Minister of Public Utilities, National Emergency, Transport and Communications

Peter Eden Martinez – Minister of Human Development and Social Transformation

Marcel Cardona – Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.

Honorable Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow was officially sworn in on February 8th. After a weekend of decision making, on Monday, he announced his new Cabinet at a press conference held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City. Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr., who won by 1,024 votes over the People’s United Party standard bearer Murlene “Mel” Spain, humbly accepted his position in Cabinet as the Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation.

    Among the many announcements, one included Barrow’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the Office of the Prime Minister as Audrey Wallace who introduced him to the gathering. Honorable Barrow explained, “There is a transition team that we’ve appointed to work with the Cabinet Secretary and the CEO in the Office of the Prime Minister to look after the logistics of this move to Belmopan. […] Quarters have to be found, vehicles have to be found — you all know that the Government in the last days sold off every vehicle to the contract officers and to Ministers for a song - but in order to do this I have asked two old public officers to come back to assist – retired public officer, Mr. David Gibson, who will initially also act as CEO in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, to assist the Deputy Prime Minister to get a handle on things. Again the nation continues to be astonished with what was happening, especially in the Lands Department in the last few weeks and the last few days.”

    Starting the Cabinet appointments, James Murphy, Jr. was announced as the new Cabinet Secretary, replacing Bobby Leslie. Former UDP leader Manuel Esquivel, who was Minister of Finance and Prime Minister from 1984-1989 and 1993-1998, was appointed senior advisor to Government with Ministerial rank on Tuesday, along with all Cabinet members.

    Dr. Carla Barnett, who resigned as Financial Secretary last year was brought back. Financial Secretary Joe Waight was retained, but Barnett, according to Barrow on Monday’s announcement, will be responsible for dealing with the foreign multilateral agencies and leading the consultations that he insists must take place within the first 100 days with the social partners to get the country’s finances on track.

    Sixteen Ministers of Government will lead the new administration and among the portfolios, new ones included consumer protection, social transformation, and civil aviation, while he has resurrected the Ministry of Economic Development (formerly considered under National Development). The Police Department and the Belize Defense Force are rejoined under the Ministry of National Security.

    Barrow announced five Ministers of State, commenting, “I had originally conceived of four Ministers of State, and that number did not include Mr. Michael Hutchinson, but after he did what he did I promptly revised my position, and perhaps I can start with him,” Barrow remarked. The five Ministers of State are: Michael “Hutchy” Hutchinson who will work out of the Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development, Ernest Castro will work along with Honorable Martinez in the Ministry of Works, Honorable Elvin Penner will be assigned with Vega, Arthur Roches will work out of the Ministry of Health while Juan Coy will be assigned with the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation. It is notable to point that Penner is the first Mennonite Belizean elected to the House of Representatives while Coy is the only Maya elected to Parliament.

    Prime Minister Barrow further explained that only Ministers are members of Cabinet, but Ministers of State may attend meetings by a standing invitation and will participate in all deliberations but do not have a vote.

    He identified three criteria in selecting Ministers: seniority, geographic balance, and ethnic representation. Barrow also explained that no district got less than 50% of its constituency representatives in Cabinet, and five of the people who were members of the last House of Representatives were re-elected and are included in the new Cabinet. Backbenchers who were not given Cabinet posts will be made chairs of the House Standing Committees.

    The new Senate—the appointed arm of the National Assembly—has yet to be constructed. However, Barrow previewed, on Monday, that three of the six Government representatives will be women and were identified as Juliet Thimbriel of WAVE Radio, Pulcheria Teul of Toledo, and Debbie McMillan, who served as Senator up until the dissolution of the National Assembly last December. UDP chairman Doug Singh will be Senator and Leader of Government Business.

    Barrow reiterated his pledge for immediate Senate reform, by adding another seat for the NGO community. This will mean that there will be four seats for social partners and three for the Opposition, People’s United Party. Together, Barrow said, they will outweigh the ruling UDP.

    The president of the Senate will come from Orange Walk, while attorney Emil Arguelles will replace Mrs. Elizabeth Zabaneh as Speaker of the House.

    Cadet Henderson will be the CEO in the Ministry of Works, David Leacock will be the CEO in the Ministry of Education, Dr. Peter Allen will be CEO in the Ministry of Health, and Marion McNab will be retained but as CEO in Ministry of Labor, Local Government and Rural Development.

    Delroy Cuthkelvin is the new press secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, a new position, while Diane Haylock would be asked to be the new president of the National Institute of Culture and History (NICH), to replace Yasser Musa, the ex-Prime Minister’s son. Mark Espat’s first cousin, Victor Espat, administrates NICH, and has not been replaced.

    Former Police Liaison Officer, G. Michael Reid, voluntarily made his exit and Assistant Superintendent Bart Jones was assigned his position.

    With many changes coming with the new UDP administration Barrow stated that the more significant ones would include that no Minister is to hire anyone—even for the post of drain

    sweeper—without taking the proposal to Cabinet; his deputy will award no lease or sale of land above 10 acres without going to Cabinet; the government website will host a great deal of information, and everything will be in the public domain; and decisions will be made by consensus. He added that his administration would implement a three-term limit for prime ministers, as well as outlaw secrecy in government contracts.
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