EDITORIAL – UPSIDE DOWN
The people walk upon their heads
The sea is made of sand
The children go to school by night
In topsy-turvy land
The recent events around the world remind me of these words from the much loved childhood poem by H E Wilkinson. It seems no matter where you turn – internationally, regionally and locally – everything is upside down and nothing seems to make sense.
Many of us have watched with keen interest, over the past few months, as US President Donald Trump took over the reins of power and became instantly one of the most powerful men in the world. However, his Presidency, though just over two months old, has been a media feeding frenzy. From his early morning tweets, ill-founded accusations, alternative facts, alleged connections with the Russian government, questionable appointments, weekly vacations and inexperience in Government – to his immigration ban and deportation orders, proposed budget cuts, failed health care legislation, and executive orders reversing decisions on the Dakota pipeline and climate change – there has been no shortage of drama and confusion associated with President Trump’s occupation of the White House. Indeed, it is almost surreal that Americans have chosen a President who has literally plunged the country into a state of utter chaos, regardless of the front being put up by his obviously well paid press secretary and the Republican Party.
In my view, the most outrageous of his actions, so far, have been his immigration ban in a country built on the backs of immigrants; the continuation of the Dakota pipeline which traverses the sacred land of native Americans (who, by the way, are the only ones with the moral authority to actually impose an immigration ban); and now, given his view that climate change is a gimmick, the rolling back of measures that reduce carbon emissions. The latter in particular should be of concern to us as island states because our geographic features make us vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Our efforts regionally to combat climate change, as well as international efforts, will be seriously undermined now that a country like that United States of America has obviously removed climate change considerations from its policy and decision-making processes. With the election of one person, everything is turned upside down.
On the local front, we have our own share of disarray. Many of us have watched, or rather listened, with interest over the past few weeks as the Governor and Chief Minister battled over the Chief Minister’s request to change ministerial portfolios. The Governor refused the Chief Minister’s request on the ground that it would have resulted in a reversal of the recent re-assignment of Permanent Secretaries to different Ministries. The Chief Minister stated publicly that he would take the matter up with Baroness Anelay (who can be considered the Governor’s boss). The result of that intervention was not communicated with the media. However, it is obvious from the contents of a recent statement issued by the Deputy Governor that a compromise has been reached, albeit an unhappy and almost incomprehensible one. From what I can glean: while there is a shift in Ministerial responsibilities, the responsibilities of Permanent Secretaries will remain the same. The end result is that four of the seven Permanent Secretaries will each be reporting to two Ministers. Also, from a practical standpoint, Ministers and some of their Permanent Secretaries will work from different premises. Further, this compromise will not result in the best utilisation of the expertise of Permanent Secretaries to support the Ministers in their new roles. To my mind, the whole thing is just a hodge-podge that needs to be rectified with some urgency. I am sure I am not alone in this view. If I am confused, I can only imagine the confusion of the Permanent Secretaries, and other senior managers, who now have to lead in the delivery of Government services with such an untenable administrative arrangement. Where are we really going with this? We seem not to be going forward. Perhaps we are going backward. We are actually no different from topsy-turvy land:
The front-door step is at the back
You’re walking when you stand
You wear your hat upon your feet
In topsy-turvy land.