BELMOPAN, Mon. Jan. 10, 2022– Today, the Government of Belize issued a release announcing a significant restructuring of Cabinet portfolios, which included the removal of Hon. Michel Chebat from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, which will now be headed by Hon. Kevin Bernard, a newly elected area representative and three-time mayor of Orange Walk Town. In the release, Prime Minister Hon. John Briceño notes that a comprehensive review was carried out of each Cabinet minister’s portfolio, and their performance, and the effectiveness of their leadership over the past year. The PM feels that these changes will enhance the work of the Cabinet and move the administration toward achieving key governance goals.
The GoB release states, “Hon. Kevin Bernard will now serve as Minister of Health and Wellness; Hon. Michel Chebat will now serve as Minister of Public Utilities and Logistics; and Hon. Rodwell Ferguson will now serve as Minister of Transport, Youth, and Sports.”
The release also states that the Prime Minister’s office will now take over coordination of the National Security Council. The release states that the PM has already advised Governor General H.E. Froyla Tzalam that the portfolio reassignments are to take immediate effect.
In addition to these changes, Hon. Francis Fonseca and Hon. Henry Charles Usher will have additional responsibilities annexed to their current portfolios. Hon. Fonseca will now also serve as Minister of E-Governance, while Hon. Henry Charles will serve additionally as Minister of Religious Affairs.
While these major changes could be seen as being a response to public outcry for the removal of Hon. Michel Chebat from the head of the Health Ministry, and for the appointment of a medical professional or someone with a background in public health to head the ministry, the decision still falls short, since Kevin Bernard studied Business Administration. The release from Cabinet states, however, that Bernard, “has considerable experience in a broad spectrum of public sector and stakeholder management.” At this time, there is no indication whether the person selected to be the CEO in the Health Ministry, Dr. Lesbia Guerra, has assumed the post.
During an interview with Hon. Usher today he said, “For some time now I’ve been advocating for a liaison between the government and the Council of Churches. I keep asking the Prime Minister month after month, can we get a liaison officer between Cabinet and the Council of Churches, so I guess this was a way of getting me off of his back in this request. But certainly, I welcome the challenge, I welcome the opportunity of merging the public service with the Christian fundamental principles upon which our country is based.”
In the press release, the PM said that all Cabinet ministers, including those having their portfolio reassigned, have his full confidence. He added, however, “My constitutional obligation as a steward of the Executive requires the fine-tuning of ministerial designations from time to time, and in view of the current circumstances, I am convinced that the new assignments will further the national interest.”
He also remarked that Minister Chebat,” is particularly suited to tackle the complexities of public utilities and logistics.”