Analysis: Better Services Expected From New Cabinet

Fijians can expect a significantly im proved service from a lean and mean FijiFirst Government Cabinet during its second term. To support a 13-member Cabinet, eight assistant ministers have been
23 Nov 2018 10:38
Analysis: Better Services Expected From New Cabinet
Assistant Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations and Youth and Sports Alvick Maharaj (fourth from left) with family members (from left) uncle-Sunil Chand, father-Ambika Maharaj,sisister-in-law- Kirti Maharaj, brother-Alrick Maharak and mother-Malti Devi following the swearing-in ceremony of the Cabinet and Assistant Ministers at State House on November 22, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Fijians can expect a significantly im proved service from a lean and mean FijiFirst Government Cabinet during its second term.

To support a 13-member Cabinet, eight assistant ministers have been appointed.
The naming of two assistant ministers, Jale Sigarara and Viam Pillay for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, Waterways and Environment is unprecedented and underscores the commitment by Government to push development in these areas.

FijiFirst, realising it lost some of the ground it had gained in 2014, in the recent election, is expected to redouble development efforts in rural and maritime areas.

Mahendra Reddy was appointed minister after his impressive performance in Waterways and Environment. His “man of action” image got him the nod in one of the biggest ministries. He is tasked to lift Agri- culture to a new level and ensure that rural and maritime areas that have not been visited or developed, get attended to as soon as possible.

Former minister Inia Seruiratu, now Minister for Defence and National Security, was flat out with his COP23 assignment as the Climate Change Champion. As a result, he could not accomplish everything he wanted to do in Agriculture and Rural Development.

With the retirement of Ratu Inoke Kubuabola from politics, Mr Seruiratu is the logical replacement because of his military background and qualifications.

As number three in the pecking order after Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Mr Seruiratu is a valuable member of Cabinet to face a stronger Opposition.

As predicted by the Fiji Sun, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete’s appointment as Minister for Health and Medical Services came as no surprise. There is a big expectation that the top surgeon will roll in the changes that are needed to lift the standard of health services to a new level. It is regarded as the most criticised ministry.

He is also expected to soon gain the respect of the medical profession and the general public. He will be ably assisted by Alex O’Connor.

Dr Waqainabete’s biggest challenge is the first two years. Changes he introduces will set the pace for the rest of the term. It is a short term as the FijiFirst Government found out. It will disappear in a flash.

Another minister to watch in Cabinet is Premila Kumar, the former CEO of the Consumer Council of Fiji. She is the new Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Local Government, Housing and Community Development. As a newcomer to the scene, the multiple portfolios are a huge responsibility.

But it reflects the level of confidence that Mr Bainimarama has in her. Industry, Trade and Tourism will keep her busy. Local Government, Housing and Community Development are equally important in the overall scheme of things.

She has an able assistant in Vijay Nath, who is a good community per- son. Local Government is a tricky one because of the constant Op- position call for local government elections instead of administrator- run councils.

Former Health Minister Rosy Akbar getting Education was predict- able considering her professional background as an educationist. She will continue with the reforms started by her predecessor, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. She will have to deal with the challenges from the teachers’ unions opposing the reforms.

She will be assisted by Joseph Nand, who has been brought in to strengthen service delivery in the rural and maritime areas especially. In the New Year, there will be a push to strengthen pre-school, primary and secondary education.

It is understood that Government is of the view that tertiary education goals can be achieved if the foundation was built earlier. A team will be sent out to assess the needs of each school in the rural and maritime areas in terms of facilities, equipment and education tools in general.

Parveen Bala and Jone Usamate swapped ministries. Mr Bala now becomes Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations while Mr Usamate is Minister for Infrastructure, Transport with

Disaster Management and Meteorological Services being added on. Disaster Management and Meteorological Service used to be with Agriculture and Rural Development. The changes have brought synergy throughout the different ministries.

Mereseini Vuniwaqa continues the good work she did as Minister for Women. She is the third woman in Cabinet.

Ashneel Sudhakar has been promoted from Government Whip to Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources.

For Semi Koroilavesau and Osea Naiqamu it’s business as usual. They retained their portfolios, Fisheries and Forests respectively.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama now has an assistant minister, George Vegnathan, to look after iTaukei Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Sugar Industry

With a stronger and bigger Opposition, ministers would have to be at their best to counter the expected barrage of questions in Parliament.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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