When the President calls and offers you the job as a Minister of the government, it is often hard to decline. It is a glitzy appointment.
But acceptance involves making a choice between public duty and the sacrifices which your acceptance will involve. If you are in business those sacrifices may be financially costly and not confined to only you, but also to the members of your immediate family.
You have to decide whether you are willing to forego what has to be foregone in order to serve your country as a Minister. You have to make a choice.
Everyday people make choices and each choice involves giving up something. You have to decide what clothes to wear; whether you will catch a bus or take a taxi; what you will eat, what you will buy and what you will do.
Persons accepting Ministerial appointments have to weigh the various options at their disposal. They have to decide whether they are prepared to accept the sacrifices which come with Ministerial responsibilities.
Involvement in public life, as a Minister, has its upside and downside. A person called to higher public office has to decide whether he or she is prepared to sacrifice personal and business interests and that of the immediate families in order to ascend to assume higher public duties.
Ministerial appointment has its benefits. A Minister receives a fat salary and healthy allowances – housing, telephone, security, entertainment, maid, gardener etc. He or she is provided with a SUV and a chauffeur. International travel is by first class. The appointment carries with it social prestige.
Automatic appointment to parliament comes with accelerated pension after a few years. Being a Minister is also a spur on one’s curriculum vitae and a passport to opportunities after demitting office. Ministers enjoy the good life.
But there is also a downside. Ministers sacrifice a great deal. They spend long hours at work and this affects their family life. The job is stressful and takes a heavy toll on their physical and mental health.
Ministers have to maintain a certain distinguished and dignified profile. They cannot be seen at striptease joints – and there are quite a few in Georgetown. They cannot afford the scandal of having an extramarital affair; they cannot binge drink; they cannot associate with disreputable characters or be caught behaving pompously or abusing their authority.
Ministers are often vilified and subjected to harsh and at times hurtful public criticism. The most sordid things are likely to be mentioned about them on social media. Their children suffer as a result.
Values can easily be corrupted. Ministerial appointment can change you. You can wake up one morning and not recognize the person you are seeing in the mirror. You may find yourself asking, “Is that me?”
Being a Minister gives you unprecedented reach and influence. People bow to your wishes. People treat you nicely – sometimes too nicely. It can get to your head. Power can become intoxicating. And there is a danger that so doing it can uproot your feet from the ground and cause you to lose your humility.
Your businesses suffer. As a Minister you and your immediate family are precluded from benefitting from government contracts.
It matters not if your business is in a blind trust or a contract is offered by a Ministry in which you are not the subject Minister.
A Minister is part of the Cabinet which holds collective responsibility for government. A Minister holds direct political responsibility for his or her portfolio, but as a Member of the Executive the Minister is part of a collective responsibility mechanism.
As such, as a member of upper tier of the Executive arm of the State, it is a conflict of interest for a business associated with a Minister or any member of that Minister’s immediate family to benefit from a government contract, regardless of the Ministry involved.
There are no exceptions to this rule. Once you are a Minister it is a conflict of interest for you or any enterprise associated with you or your family to benefit from a contract to provide public services.
A Minister has to consider all of these factors before accepting Ministerial appointment. It is not an easy decision to make. People want to have the opportunity to serve their country and to make a difference, but those choices come at a price – the threat to one’s reputation, missed business opportunities for you and your immediate family and the loss of quality time with one’s family.
Once you accept a Ministerial offer you have to abide with the consequences of that decision. You have to accept the good with the bad, the benefits and the losses. You cannot want your cake and eat it too.
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