Jan 04, 2017 News
-Volda Lawrence new minister; Amna Ally to head Social Protection
The administration has downplayed its decision to remove Dr. George Norton as Minister of Public
Health and place him at Social Cohesion.
Yesterday, President David Granger, in a released statement, was quick to stress that it is not a “reshuffle” of his Cabinet but a “shift” to ensure that the Government continues to deliver the quality of public service to the people of Guyana.
Norton, who has been under pressure since last year, will now head the Ministry of Social Cohesion which falls under the Ministry of the Presidency.
Volda Lawrence is the new Minister of Public Health, after being moved from the Ministry of Social Protection. Taking up that position now will be Minister Amna Ally who was the Minister of Social Cohesion.
Norton faced flak last year for the rental of a drug bond in Albouystown for $12.5M monthly. There were calls for him to be sanctioned. There have also been criticisms of drug shortages in some regions and even at the Guyana Public Hospital Corporation.
He was asked to and later apologized to the House for making misleading statements regards to the National Assembly about the drug bond transaction.
According to President Granger yesterday, at the start of 2016, he had made some adjustments. “I appointed Catherine Hughes as the Minister of Public Telecommunications. This was later followed by Raphael Trotman named as Minister of Natural Resources.
“My responsibilities as head of Government are to continuously assess the ability of the Cabinet to fulfill its functions and this is a normal activity,” the Head of State explained.
With regards to this recent ‘shift’, he said that he found it necessary to look at the way the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Social Protection and the Ministry of Social Cohesion were performing and as a result, some adjustments
The President disclosed that he had worked with Norton for the last five years in the 10th Parliament. “He was the shadow Minister of Health. When we went into Government in the 11th Parliament, he was the Minister of Public Health.”
While being initially happy, Granger admitted that “some criticisms” last year were detracting from the performances of the Cabinet as a whole and “I thought it prudent and timely to make the changes at the beginning of 2017”. He did not explain what the criticisms were.
With regards to Norton’s suitability to his new post, the President said that there were some criticisms of the quality of social cohesion. Norton had joined the A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) as the lead of the Guyana Organisation of Indigenous People and therefore possesses “broad knowledge…deep knowledge” of the hinterlands.
“So when we are looking at social cohesion we are not speaking of Africans and Indians; we are not speaking of the ethnic problems or the religious problems. We also have to look at the spatial dimension and I felt that he had an advantage in his knowledge of the hinterlands because our administration has always spoken about closing the gap between coastal and hinterland.”
Granger hinted that the decision to shift Norton would have come since early last year when Local Government Elections were held. “I believe that he is ideally suited to that. In the run-up to the Local Government Elections and future developments, I felt that his contributions will be critical to helping to bring about social cohesion. I was very happy to retain him as a member of the Cabinet.”
Regarding his choice of Minister Lawrence to lead the Health Ministry, Granger said she has brought “certain managerial skills”.
“Largely, it is a management problem in terms of materials and human resources and the delivery of services to the various regions of Guyana and I believe she will be ideally suited to the ministry, so I feel grateful to the minister for taking up the challenge.”
The Head of State made it clear that the three ministers were all experienced Parliamentarians. “…Miss Amna Ally is a very steady person. She is the Chief Whip…very reliable in the 10th Parliament…She has worked with me and I believe that in terms of her knowledge…Region Five, coming out from rural areas, she had a good knowledge of the needs of the people in the urban; in the rural areas. So I believe that in terms of Social Protection – knowledge of poor people- she will add to work done before by Minister Lawrence.”
Granger expressed happiness with the changes… “just as happy last year with the appointment of Minister Cathy Hughes and Minister Raphael Trotman. So I think that the people of Guyana can understand that it is not a negative move. It is a very positive move and I believe that the quality of delivering of public service will improve as a result.”
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