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Thursday, October 1, 2020
Home General Assad, Marcial and Servulo are out!

Assad, Marcial and Servulo are out!

The Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Said Musa, announced this morning that effective today, July 14, the Cabinet has been downsized from 12 to 9 members. Notable in the release from the PM?s office is that not only does the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Johnny Brice?o, retain his position as Musa?s deputy, but he gets the additional portfolio of Local Government.

In recent weeks there have been numerous reports from inside the ruling party?s camp that Musa wanted to move Brice?o from the DPM?s position and install in his place Hon. Godfrey Smith, who had won the highest votes in the ruling party?s convention for deputy leader on February 19. Smith told the media last week, however, after the reports were made public, that he did not want the position.

Another formidable Musa ally has also seen major additions to his portfolio: In addition to being the top man over Immigration, Customs, and other departments in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Hon. Ralph Fonseca is now in charge of the highly lucrative public utilities sector? telephone, light and water.

Former Senator, Hon. Assad Shoman, is formally out of Cabinet, after a voluntary departure, and Musa has taken over his National Development portfolio ? a portfolio that Musa had originally held before he took Shoman into Cabinet after the August 12threbellion of seven of his ministers, following a major rift in his camp over his government?s management of public finances.

Another major change is that two ministers will be left hanging without portfolios, but will still get their $81,000 a year salaries and other perks. Hon. Marcial Mes, who had been in Musa?s Cabinet since 1998, has been dethroned; and so has Hon. Servulo Baeza, who had served as Health Minister under the first Musa administration of 1998-2003.

Mes lost his portfolio of Local Government, Labor and Rural Development, but he has been assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister. The PM?s release did not explain what role Hon. Mes would be playing in his office.

The second minister, Baeza, lost Housing to Hon. Sylvia Flores, who has long held on to the Human Development portfolio.

In this latest reshuffle of his Cabinet deck, Musa reclaims the Ministry of Public Service from Hon. Joe Coye, who holds on to Works, Transport and Communications.

The three men who were apparently untouched in the shuffle are: Hon. Godfrey Smith, who, we understand, keeps Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Tourism, NEMO and Information; Hon. Francis Fonseca, who stays as the Attorney General and Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture; and Hon. Michael Espat, who retains Agriculture and Fisheries.

Smith will have more help within his ministry as a new Minister of State, Hon. Mario Castellanos, Cayo Central area representative, has been assigned to his Ministry.

This brings the number of Ministers of State in Musa?s Cabinet up from 6 to 7, but the total number of ministers, including the PM and DPM, and ministers of state, remains at 16?so there is no real downsizing. The addition of Hon. Castellanos as Minister of State and the retention of Mes and Baeza at ministerial rank, have virtually negated any monetary savings Musa would have gotten from shuffling his Cabinet.

As to the purpose of this latest Cabinet shuffle, Mr. Musa?s release said that it is ?to rationalize portfolio responsibilities and streamline the operations of Government.?

With 9 ministries now instead of 12, some in the public sector believe that some CEO?s?who are contract officers?may be released or redeployed to other positions. At the same time, the Public Service Union is concerned that the collapsing of ministries, while it evidently did not hurt Musa?s Cabinet financially?may hurt public officers, who may be deemed redundant and then retrenched under any restructuring that may follow.

This is Prime Minister Musa?s third Cabinet reshuffle since the August 12thresignation of 7 Cabinet Ministers, dubbed the G-7. In the first reshuffle on August 18, Musa expanded the size of his Cabinet from 13 to 16, at that time adding Shoman, Mike Espat and Ainslie Leslie of Cayo North. On December 28, after a tense face-off with the G-7, Musa exiled Albert area representative, Hon. Mark Espat, from his Cabinet, whereupon Lake I representative, Hon. Cordel Hyde, walked away, citing a G-7 ?touch one, touch all? pact.

A third G-7 member, former Senator, Eamon Courtenay, who was an unelected member of Cabinet, also walked away, reportedly in protest of an attempt to remove him from Cabinet and place him in another public sector post. That?s three gone.

Baeza is the fourth G-7 man out of Cabinet since the August 12thmass resignation.

The three remaining are Smith, Brice?o and Coye.

Some political observers say that the results of Tuesday shuffle do not necessarily mean that things are cozy between Musa and Brice?o. Another imminent Cabinet shake-up, some political observes say, may still be in the pipeline.

(The entire press release from the Office of the Prime Minister can be viewed at: http://www.belize.gov.bz/pressoffice/press_releases/14-07-2005-3978.shtml.)

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