Headline — 16 June 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
PM Barrow reshuffles Cabinet

Dr. Barnett reportedly was forced out of the powerful Ministry of Natural Resources and got “lightweight” Labour, Local Government, Rural Development Ministries; Hon. Frank Mena still has Election and Boundaries, among other ministries

BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 12, 2018– Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced via a government press release today that he has once again shuffled his Cabinet and re-assigned control over the the Ministry of Natural Resources, once described by him as “a hotbed of corruption,” when that portfolio was held by the Hon. Gaspar Vega, area representative for Orange Walk North, who resigned from Cabinet amidst massive corruption scandals.

Today’s Cabinet reshuffle comes ahead of the Prime Minister’s own announced schedule for demitting office because of health problems, and his party’s election of a new leader to prepare for the general elections scheduled for 2020.

The Ministry of Natural Resources, one of Prime Minister Barrow’s portfolios, which he had placed under the headship of Minister of State, Senator Dr. Carla Barnett, apparently was not such a comfortable fit for the Senator. The opening statements of the press release, which begins by stating that Dr. Barnett “requested” a transfer from the powerful Ministry of Natural Resources, are unusual, considering that Cabinet ministers are usually appointed and serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

The press release further explained in its opening paragraph, “Pursuant to a request from the Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett to be reassigned from her current position as Minister of State in the Ministry of Natural Resources, the office of the Prime Minister announces the following Cabinet changes: The Hon. Hugo Patt is being appointed the new Minister of Natural Resources and as a result, will relinquish his current portfolio of Labor, Local Government, Rural Development, Energy, Public Utilities, Public Service and Elections and Boundaries.”

“That portfolio will now be assumed by Prime Minister Dean Barrow,” said the release, which added that “Hon. Frank Mena will continue as Minister of State in that Ministry with de facto charge of Public Utilities, Energy, Public Service, and Elections and Boundaries.”

“Senator Hon. Dr. Carla Barnett will stay with the Prime Minister in his expanded Ministry and will have particular responsibility for Labour, Local Government and Rural Development …all other current Cabinet allocations remain the same,” the release says.

The new assignments are to take effect on Monday, June 25.

Dr. Barnett recently announced that she will contest the general election as the UDP candidate for the Freetown constituency, and perhaps this ambition could be tied to her relinquishing control of the powerful and demanding Ministry of Natural Resources, and taking on what is considered “lightweight” ministries — Labour, Local Government and Rural Development.

Hon. Hugo Patt, the Corozal North area representative, who acted as Prime Minister on two recent occasions when PM Barrow had to leave the country, reportedly is considering a run for the UDP leader position and his promotion in Cabinet appears to be a boost to his new political ambition.

Present UDP Deputy Leader, Hon. Patrick Faber, the Collet area representative, was expected to face a challenge from the Belmopan area representative, Hon. John Saldivar, who is also aspiring to lead the UDP, but if Hon. Patt decides to throw himself into the ring for the post of leader of the UDP, which is expected to hold conventions next June or July, that would make for an interesting three-way race, because Hon. Patt would be a new, fresh face with no political baggage on the national stage, unlike both Hon. Faber and Hon. Saldivar, who have had their share of scandals and controversy.

Hon. Patt now becomes the fourth Minister of Natural Resources in a little less than three years, following in the path of Senators Hon. Godwin Hulse, Hon. Vanessa Retreage and Prime Minister Barrow, who did not, however, run the day-to-day administration of the powerful Ministry of Natural Resources, which is the second ministry after the Ministry of Finance in terms of importance.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow now holds the following portfolios: Minister of Finance and Labor, Local Government, Rural Development, Energy, Public Utilities, Public Service, and Elections and Boundaries. With this string of ministries, the Prime Minister has two Ministers of State — Frank Mena and Dr. Carla Barnett.

While no reason was given for Dr. Barnett giving up the powerful Ministry of Natural Resources for three “low-level” ministries, a reliable source told Amandala that Dr. Barnett was forced out of the Ministry of Natural Resources by Cabinet colleagues who wanted to continue with” business as usual,” when it came to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Readers should note that the City Councils and municipal bodies, and the Election and Boundaries Department, which controls re-registration, which begins July 1, are all under the Ministry of Labour, Local Government and Rural Development, which Prime Minister Dean Barrow now controls.

Prior to this reconfiguration, Hon. Mena was Minister of State with responsibilities for Ministry of Labour, Local Government, Rural Development, Public Service, Energy & Public Utilities.

We also note that according to political pundits, the Prime Minister’s constituency, Queen’s Square, has the highest number of voters who do not live in that division, making it perhaps vulnerable to changes after the re-registration is completed, if the exercise is carried out properly.

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