Following his resounding re-election in December 2021, Barrow was widely expected to move swiftly and confidently to announce a new Cabinet.
However, he disappointed many when he announced that he will retain the old Cabinet for three months whilst he pondered what changes to make.
Considering that Barrow had all the time to consult, identify, and select persons for his post-election government, it was obvious that he was completely unprepared, and showed weakness and indecision.
It also revealed the mind of an old schemer making calculations that are politically motivated, and not necessarily guided by the national interest, as we later saw.
Notably, Barrow nominated political allies to the new National Assembly whose loyalty he could count on. He selected close political confidantes as heads of the Legislature; persons who with his NPP’s simple majority in the National Assembly can ensure that the Executive always gets what it wants in and from the Legislature.
Thus except for this earthquake announcement, which left many Gambians aghast, Barrow got through his first 100 days in office without hitting the road running.
His Cabinet pick, however, came as a surprise, but confirms Barrow’s self-serving motivations, by picking for the Vice President slot a person who is not known to harbor any political ambitions.
In compositing his new Cabinet did he consult widely and perhaps received advice or lessons from a senior statesman in the immediate sub-region? It must not be ruled out.
However, it rhymes with Barrow’s announcement on Eid day at a meeting with Muslim elders at State House, that he intends to rule in his second term as if it would be his last term in office.
Barrow’s VP pick, therefore, we surmise is an indication that he intends to do his thing and does not want near him a close rival with any political influence who could be breathing down his neck.
Barrow’s selection of women for nomination to the National Assembly and Cabinet appointments also betrays the usual tokenism Gambian women lament and are still receiving from our political leaders.
Certainly, they constitute more than half the population and the majority of the voters, and our women deserve more than the 5-6 seats out of 53 seats in the legislature and more than three out of the 21 Cabinet appointments.
Barrow we see did not put more women just the same number as before in his Cabinet. Considering that their mobilization work and votes determined the outcome of the last presidential election are Gambian women and women’s groups happy with their numbers in the new National Assembly and the new Cabinet?
In any case, the women should know that their success in the political arena depends on them – not on tokenism. Also that it takes progressive leadership to create the space for women to achieve what they rightly deserve in this country.
Especially, considering that there is an increase in the number of Cabinet ministers from 19 to 21.
But we must ask in passing if the increase in Cabinet positions is in line with constitutional provisions relating to the size of the Cabinet.
Perhaps more pertinent is the question: Is this the right time to have a bloated Cabinet, considering the repeated statements at every opportunity and occasion about the impact of the pandemic on the national economy – now said to be compounded by the worsening global economic environment due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict?
Especially, when the very Barrow declared at the State House meeting with elders that his government is cutting public spending due to the unfavorable national and global economic climate.
Of course, the new changes would have been reflected in the national budget for the fiscal year 2022, and so the last parliament shares responsibility for the increased spending at a time of a foreseeable and predictable unfavorable economic environment.
Indeed, does it make sense to increase the size of the Cabinet which means more public expenditure, and can we sustain such expenditure at a time when the government has declared that it is cutting spending?
Still, about the new Cabinet, it is noticed that there are more technicians and fewer politicians in the new government. Do we also want to ask if the electorate has any concerns about there being some square pegs in round holes in the new Cabinet?
Well, If there are, it would be fair to say that this was the case since Jawara’s days.
How about the composition of the Cabinet in terms of ethnic, regional, and religious representation? For instance, do we have this time too many Banjul people in the Cabinet?
Now, does Barrow’s pick for foreign minister show in making his choice the preferences of Senegal and France, who would certainly welcome re-appointing their man, Dr. Mamadou Tangara, as foreign minister.
We do know that the choice of Finance minister is usually made with due consideration given to who would be acceptable to the IMF and World Bank; just the way we must bear in mind that foreign states are fussy about who is accredited as ambassador to their governments.
Ultimately, how do Barrow’s multiple allies feel about being sidelined; those who accompanied him to contest for re-election in December 2021 and were expecting and widely tipped to be in the new Cabinet?
Are they being earmarked/considered and vetted for ambassadorial jobs?
Finally, we have seen Cabinet ministers relieved, retained in their positions, and redeployed, as well as several new faces. Did Barrow retain ministers who were widely expected he would drop because allegations of corruption have been swirling above their heads?
These questions among others should logically be asked, and the answers to which will be known over time. As they say, time will tell.
We at TAT congratulate the new Cabinet members and wish President Barrow’s new Cabinet all the best in rendering service to the nation.