It was bound to happen. No matter which way you look at it, Colm Imbert has been downsized. As Minister of Finance, Imbert was the automatic choice to be chairman of the Cabinet sub-committee, the Finance and General Purposes Committee (F&GP).
Two weeks ago, Imbert was replaced by Stuart Young, who does not have a Ministry but is a Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and Office of the Attorney General.
There is an argument that there is nothing wrong with that move as Lenny Saith, who was not a Minister of Finance, headed the Finance and General Purposes Committee under then Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
But Saith was a senior Cabinet Minister, a member of the inner Cabinet, and a close associate to Manning.
But Young has no Ministerial experience. Since winning the Port-of-Spain North/St Ann’s West seat in the 2015 general elections, Young was appointed a junior Minister. It was only in the recent Cabinet reshuffle, he was made a full Minister. But he commands no Ministry. He is the Cabinet spokesman at post-Cabinet press conferences, demoting Maxie Cuffie to the Ministry of Public Administration.
He is seen at the side of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley at almost all functions. He travels with Rowley all the time, Ghana, London, the United States, Jamaica, and Venezuela.
With no Ministry, Young a newcomer is now the chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee. Cabinet Ministers and top rank supporters of the PNM are watching these developments closely. They wonder how a newcomer to the politics has so much power and influence within the Rowley Cabinet.
They are asking how experienced politicians in the PNM are being sidelined, in preference to this young lawyer.
In the last PP Government, the Ministers of Finance, Winston Dookeran, and Larry Howai chaired this committee. In their absence, Minister of Trade Vasant Bharath chaired the committee meetings.
The big question is why was Imbert replaced?
Insiders say Rowley was seeking to do damage control after Imbert’s controversial remarks at the IMF Conference at the Hyatt in November.
Firstly, Imbert said public servants can expect a 0-0-0- increase over the next three years. Then he said he raised the fuel prices twice already and nobody hasn’t rioted, so he may increase fuel by another 15 percent in April.
Well, the trade unions didn’t take those comments sitting down. Some have refused to meet with Imbert until he apologizes for those statements.
But Imbert is seen as the most arrogant of all the Ministers in this Government. His responses to the Opposition in Parliament leave much to be desired. Insiders say Rowley was not too pleased with what Imbert said at the IMF Conference, among international guests.
“It is damage control time as the Government wants to press ahead with delivery. You cannot consider the Matelot response delivery. Nature caused that. The Prime Minister wants to get on with the business, but he feels Imbert and a few other Ministers might be a drawback to his plans,” one PNM insider added.
The next question: Will Imbert be removed as Minister of Finance?
Another question: Will Imbert no longer act as Prime Minister?
Time will tell.