The Common Good: A Cabinet Responsibility
Patrick Martin, MD
Student & Resident Citizen
May 28, 2018
Government is instituted for the common good: for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family or class of men. (John Adams, USA Founding Father)
First and foremost, governing for the common good is the collective responsibility of Cabinet. The principle should be employed to resolve an entanglement, alleged or actual, touching a minister including the Prime Minister.
In Cabinet, the buck stops with the Prime Minister. He is ultimately answerable for all Cabinet actions, good or offensive to the common good.
The Prime Minister is named but not charged with a criminal offense in the gifting matter proceeding through the British court system. The presumption of innocence applies but his naming is injurious to citizen, investor and visitor confidence.
The Prime Minister and his Cabinet team swore an oath of office tantamount to a promise: “To do the good that they can do”. The presumption is that nothing will be said and done to harm the regard of our beloved land as a nation of laws and wisdom.
With harm done, damage-control is warranted and Cabinet has the collective responsibility to impose the same, at all costs. Antigua and Barbuda is the most recent model. There, an entangled minister fell on his sword seemingly without hesitation, equivocation or condition. He is a popular representative; he did not summon supporters to a display of personal adulation.
Such high regard for country is a benchmark. It effectively delinks a private matter from governance affairs. This “high-water mark” applies to my Prime Minister; more so because he is first among equals.
“Country Above Self” and collective responsibility can restore confidence in the avowed good governance agenda and the country’s good name. In demonstrating such resolve, Cabinet should ensure certain confidence-building checks and balances are brought to bear within the promised timeline.
Measures include, inter alia, term limits for the Office of Prime Minister, timely availability of government information, robust but just integrity in public life regulations, and a public accounts committee with teeth.
Additionally, and as a matter of paramount urgency, Cabinet should consider and implement a policy that governs how ministers handle gifts. Not that all investors and allies are out to entrap ministers. But that gift-offering begets gift-receiving and a penchant for gift-begging begets ministerial compromise. Fallouts include white elephant and unethical projects in which profit supersedes the health of the environment and humans.
Gift-givers and their projects should be kept at arms-length pending due diligence checks, impact assessments, and other “common good” advice provided by the competent functionaries and ordinary people.