At a press conference held at the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) in Belmopan, on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced his new Cabinet, which is made up of 15 ministers of government and 6 junior ministers or ministers of state—a total of 19 men and 2 women who will run the business of government under the Barrow administration, elected to govern for a new 5-year term.
In the March 7, 2012, general elections, three ministers lost their bid for re-election, Stann Creek West’s Melvin Hulse, Toledo East’s Peter Eden Martinez, and Corozal South West’s Gabriel Martinez. One minister, Carlos Perdomo, retired from politics and didn’t seek re-election in Caribbean; one Senator, in the person of former Leader of Government Business Doug Singh, is not being reappointed to his ministerial post, in charge of police and public safety, and former Attorney General B.Q. Pitts, appointed via a special constitutional amendment to permit government to hire an Attorney General from outside Parliament, is not being reappointed. Barrow has reverted to picking the Attorney General from inside Cabinet, and Wilfred Elrington has regained that portfolio.
Also, four ministers of state, three of whom had sought re-election but lost, are being replaced, because none of them held on to their parliamentary seats. The new Ministers of State, said Barrow, will “be work-a-day ministers of state with particular responsibility for portfolios,” unlike the former way of doing business, whereby ministers of state had no real terms of reference and just “helped out” the minister in charge of the portfolio.
Even more significant is that the stripping of the UDP’s supermajority in the House of Representatives has paved the way for Prime Minister Barrow to, as he put it, “go the route of looking for the best talent, the best brainpower, the best expertise that would be available to me, so that I could form a Cabinet that could be seen by all the people of this country as reflecting an effort to harness all of the skills available to the UDP in order to produce the best government possible.”
This has led to the appointment of four ministers of government drawn from the Senate. (See story elsewhere in this edition of Amandala, featuring former private sector Senator now turned Leader of Government Business, Godwin Hulse, and Lisel Alamilla, former environmental activist of Toledo.)
The structure of Barrow’s new Cabinet is in accordance with Section 40 of the Belize Constitution, which says that only two-thirds of the elected members of the ruling party (in this case the UDP) can get ministerial portfolios, and up to four more can be drawn from the Cabinet—making the maximum 15. This left the UDP with the limitation of picking 11 out of the 17 elected UDP reps for ministerial posts, but the 6 left out in the pick, including Santino “Santi” Castillo, were made ministers of state with specific portfolios. Asked if they would get a salary increase, Barrow said that is not in the plan.
Here are the appointments he announced on Tuesday afternoon:
(1) Prime Minister and Queen’s Square area representative, Dean Barrow, remains the Minister of Finance but adds Economic Development to his portfolio; Minister of State: Santiago Castillo, Caribbean Shores area representative, becomes Minister of State in the ministry with responsibility for economic development (formerly held by Erwin Contreras); the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) working with Castillo is Sharman Hyde.
Santi will be responsible for capital budget preparation and management, economic development planning, public sector investment project planning, multilateral financing agencies, the Social Investment Fund (SIF), Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), development finance institutions and the Development Finance Corporation (DFC). Audrey Wallace, who Barrow described as his “lifelong rod and staff”, continues to be the CEO in the Office of the Prime Minister, which is responsible for Cabinet, inter-ministerial coordination, information & broadcasting, press office, parliamentary matters, RESTORE Belize, the Business Forum, National Honors and Awards, and special projects.
(2) Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, Orange Walk North area representative, is Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture; Minister of State is Hugo Patt, the Corozal North area representative who Barrow said played such a critical role in the narrow victory the UDP recorded last week. He will have responsibility for agriculture; Beverly Castillo retains the CEO seat. (The Environment section of the portfolio has been removed, along with petroleum). Natural resources will include lands and land management, mining, land surveys, physical planning, hydrology, solid waste management, and added to that is the Ministry of Agriculture.
(3.) Cayo West area representative Erwin Contreras is Minister of Trade, Investment, Private Sector Development and Consumer Protection; CEO is Mike Singh, formerly of BELTRAIDE. This ministry now includes foreign trade, investment promotion, promotion of FDI, international trade negotiations, industrial and commercial development, BELTRAIDE, small business, gaming, and all the consumer protection functions: the Bureau of Standards, price control, weights and measures, the free zone, and export processing zones.
(4.) Senator Lisel Alamilla, formerly the executive director of Ya’axché Conservation Trust, will be the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, Sustainable Development and Indigenous People, a new ministry, with Dr. Wendell Parham serving as CEO. This ministry will include forestry, protected areas and reserves, the Protected Areas Conservation Trust (PACT), climate change, environment, fisheries, the Coastal Zone Management Institute and Authority, and matters involving relations with indigenous peoples.
(5) Senator Audrey Joy Grant, a former Ambassador for Belize, is head of the new Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology, and Public Utilities; and her CEO will be Dr. Colin Young, former director of the Natural Protected Areas Secretariat. The Geology and Petroleum Department, electricity, gas, solar, research and development, science education, public utilities, and the PUC, water industry, telecommunications and energy will be under her ministry.
(6) Pickstock area representative Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington remains Minister of Foreign Affairs and has been reassigned as Attorney General, a position held up to March 6, 2012, by Elrington’s law partner, B.Q. Pitts. Alexis Rosado retains the CEO position.
(7) Doug Singh is no longer the Minister of Police and Public Safety. Instead, Belmopan area representative John Saldivar, now Minister of National Security, has gotten the police portfolio, along with defence, formerly held by retired Caribbean Shores rep Carlos Perdomo.
Elvin Penner—the UDP representative who won Cayo North East by the slimmest margin and whose seat is being challenged by the Opposition via election petition—has been demoted from serving as Minister of Public Utilities, and Information and Broadcasting, and is now Minister of State in the Ministry with responsibility for Immigration, and Border Protection & the Immigration Department. The CEO in the Ministry of Defence remains Col. George Lovell.
(8) Mesopotamia’s area rep, Michael Finnegan, retains his ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and his CEO remains Lawrence Sylvester.
(9) Cayo Central area representative Rene Montero gets the Ministry of Works and Transport, and Belize Rural North area representative, Edmund Castro, is the Minister of State in charge of Transport. The new CEO is Carlson Goff, who Barrow said is an engineer and first-rate manager who left the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in the extremely senior post of person in charge of all infrastructure and projects. Transport now includes all three areas: ground, sea and air transport.
(10) Belize Rural South area representative, Manuel Heredia, Jr., retains the Ministry of Tourism and has had Culture added to his portfolio. His CEO remains Lindsay Garbutt.
(11) Pablo Marin, area representative of Corozal Bay, retains the Ministry of Health and his CEO remains Dr. Peter Allen.
(12) The new Minister of Labour, Local Government, Rural Development and NEMO is Senator Godwin Hulse. Candy Saldivar-Morter is the CEO.
(13) The new Minister of Public Service and Elections and Boundaries is Senator Charles Gibson, whose position has been upgraded from his CEO post under what was the Ministry of Public Service, Governance Improvement, Elections & Boundaries and Sports. Gibson’s CEO is Marion McNab.
(14) The new ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation will be headed by Port Loyola area representative Anthony “Boots” Martinez, former Minister of Works. The Minister of State is Mark King, Lake I area representative, who will have responsibility for the Conscious Youth Development Programme (CYDP) and the Gang Truce Programme. The CEO will be Judith Alpuche.
(15) Collet area representative and UDP chairman, Patrick Faber, retains Education and Youth, and has also gained Sports as a part of his portfolio. Herman Longsworth is Minister of State in Faber’s ministry, and he has responsibility for Youth and Sports. David Leacock remains the CEO.
Barrow also announced that the Speaker of the House will be Michael Peyrefitte, replacing Emil Arguelles; and the President of the Senate will be Marco Pech, formerly UDP Orange Walk South area representative and former Minister of State in Natural Resources, who replaces Andrea Gill.
The other two UDP Senators, to round out the 6, will be Juliet Thimbriel, the only UDP Senator to retain her seat, and Gerardo Marconi Sosa from Benque Viejo. Senator Godwin Hulse will also be the Leader of Government Business, to replace Doug Singh.
The Sergeant of Arms in Parliament will continue to be Yellow Man, and the new Cabinet Secretary, to replace James Murphy, will be Carlos Perdomo, former Minister of Defence, who assumes the post on April 1, 2012, the start of the government’s financial year.
Barrow said that there will be two instruments of appointment for those senators appointed as ministers to be signed by 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, for swearing-in at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, at the Belize House in Belmopan.
The ceremonial opening of Parliament is set for Wednesday, March 21, 2012.