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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 April 2003

Columnist: Press

Cabinet Reshuffle: Shifting of Musical Chairs

President Kufour on Thursday March 27 embarked on what was billed as a "major shake-up" of his Cabinet since assuming office two years ago. Cabinet shuffles are normal political and government practice which are intended to pump new blood into government machinery while dumping dead and dormant woods. Rumors of imminent Cabinet reshuffle had swirled around for nearly a year and the President was compelled, at his last Meet-the-Press encounter, to plead with the media to allow him the freedom, if you may, to exercise on his own accord, and in his own time, the only prerogative that he (the President) has: cabinet reshuffles.

The Cabinet Changes announced on Thursday contained a few good moves but overall, it was an exercise in shifting of musical chairs. We hasten to welcome the changes made at the Ministry of Trade from where Konadu Apraku was axed to an almost useless portfolio called Regional Cooperation and (the still undefined) NEPAD. The other is the Ministry of Information from where Jake Obetsebi Lamptey was tossed to the new superfluous ministry of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City.
These two Ministries and their sector Ministers had long being fingered as the weakest link in the government machinery. The Ministry of Information has been struggling since Day One of the NPP administration to make its presence and effectiveness felt. From the earlier times of Elizabeth Ohene to Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, the government has been struggling to get its message across. The Ministry has always played catch-up to the taunts and schemings of the opposition and the media. In effect it became a reactionary unit instead of the pro-active government information and effective public relations machinery that it is expected to be. Not much is known about the new sector Minister, Nana Akomeah. If he is also going to play the dull, reactionary public relations quarter-back that the previous ministers had played up to this point, then God helps the government.
Most surprising is the merging of the two powerful and very important Ministries of Education, Youth & Sports. Does this show the real intentions of the government as caring less about Education, our youth and sports? For a government heavily loaded with well educated people, Education should have been at the topmost of their priorities. The Education Ministry needs two full-time Ministers plus at least two deputies while Youth and Sports should have been allowed to have its own Minister as it was before. Dumping the two together speaks volumes about government priorities.
Another surprise was the President making good on the lesson he claimed to have learnt from India and Malaysia by creating a new Ministry of Ports, Harbors and Railways. Ha! ha! ha!: One Airport, two harbors and a non-functioning Railway system gets a full-fledged Minister while Education and Sports get lumped together? Since the railway system is in a serious coma, we hope that the new sector Minister will work hard to revamp and revive it into a modern railway system to serve the needs of the country. Senior Prefect J. H Mensah as usual was given another long sounding meaningless title of Public Sector Reform and National Institutional Renewal Program. Why does the President not simply ask J.H to just go rest at home?
Most overseas Ghanaians welcome the change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the tossing of Hackman Owusu-Agyeman. We welcome the fluently bilingual and more capable Nana Akufo Addo (former Attorney-General) to the Foreign Affairs desk. We hope he will show more respect to the contributions and input of overseas Ghanaians to the nation-building effort than his predecessor did.
Overall the "shake-up" did not go deep enough. Some Ministers should have simply being given the boot. Shifting of musical chairs and dancing to the same old tunes is not what President Kufour needs. He needs to come out more strongly and hard on non-performing Ministers. Moving them around and assigning them superfluous titles does the government, the President and the nation no good.

Ghanaian News Canada - Editorial