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Jan 5, 2004

Cabinet has new look for 2004

Rumours of a Cabinet reshuffle have been making the rounds for weeks, but when the realignment of portfolios was announced today, it bore little resemblance to the various versions leaked by the players themselves. Ten out of the thirteen ministers were affected by today’s moves, with only Johnny Briceño, Ralph Fonseca, and Servulo Baeza untouched by the Prime Minister’s broom.

Here’s what the new line-up looks like, based on a rough order of importance and/or surprise. In what may prove to be the most significant shift, Jose Coye and Vildo Marin will be swapping jobs: Coye, Minister of Health for the last five years, will become the boss at Works, while Marin, just getting comfortable at Works, will occupy the hot seat at Health. Conventional wisdom is that the move will pave the way for the privatisation of management at the K.H.M.H., as well as the expansion of the National Health Insurance programme under the direction of the Social Security Board, both moves persistently resisted by Coye. Marin will also get to keep the Communication portfolio.

The next major manoeuvre involves old friends Eamon Courtenay and Godfrey Smith. Again, the buzz was that Smith would be punished for gaffes like awarding his brother an eight hundred thousand dollar remodelling contract and selling his good friend some prime Belize City seafront at a bargain price. Instead, while Smith did lose the Attorney General’s portfolio, he gained the Ministry of Defence and Emergency Management…not a bad trade in any league.

Courtenay meanwhile, who in nine months as Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade, has earned a reputation for hard work and effectiveness, will become the new Attorney General and Minister of Foreign Trade, losing only the Investment side of his briefcase. Courtenay had been considered for the post of Foreign Minister, but with Ambassador Assad Shoman making the serious foreign policy decision, Courtenay is probably lucky to have missed out.

To make way for Smith’s takeover at Defence, Sylvia Flores was transferred to head the Ministry of Human Development, while former Minister of Human Development Marcial Mes will confine his duties to Local Government and Labour.

Rounding out the new appointments, Mark Espat, perhaps the most successful administrator in Cabinet, albeit with the relatively small ministries of Tourism and Culture, will now have the Investment portfolio added to his duties. This includes BELTRAIDE, which like the B.T.B. and NICH, also operates more like a private business than a government bureaucracy.

Cordel Hyde, who since March has toiled in the wilderness of Housing, will now have a bit more to occupy his time with the additional portfolio of Transport, formerly held by Vildo Marin. And Francis Fonseca, formerly Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, formally comes into his own as the new Minister of Education, Sports, and Youth.

As for Prime Minister Said Musa, while he gives up responsibility for Education, he takes on the amorphous tasks of National Development. This title, according to a government press release, incorporates economic planning, poverty elimination, and improvement in governance.

As for the all-important re-alignment of chief executive officers, that announcement will wait until after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Again, the rumour mill has been active, but in the light of today’s surprises, like everyone else, we’ll just wait and see.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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