The new Junior Agriculture Minister Valarie Adams-Yearwood has said she sees her reassignment as a promotion.
“I see it as a promotion. I’m going into new and exciting areas…I have to actually create the policies,” Adams-Yearwood told reporters at the Public Buildings yesterday.
Following the resignation of the four members of Cabinet who were holders of dual citizenship, President David Granger announced new appointments, including that of Adams-Yearwood who previously held the post of Minister within the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for housing.
The minister, who administered the housing sector since 2016, will now hold the portfolio for Rural Affairs under the Agriculture Ministry.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, she stressed that in crafting the focus of the ministry, youth empowerment will be at the forefront. “It will focus… on getting them back to the farms. Outside of oil and gas, agriculture is the other way to go. Our young people need to go back to farm there are many opportunities for funding there… getting them local and foreign markets. Empowering rural communities in agriculture that will be the focus,” Adams-Yearwood explained.
The minister, who has recently been the subject of questions concerning conflict of interest as a result of contracts that were awarded by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), also dismissed suggestions that her reassignment was actually a demotion.
“I can preempt the question. Not a demotion. What is demotion? My salary is not affected, my allowances…nothing is affected. So why would it be a demotion” the minister questioned.
Adams-Yearwood’s husband Godfrey Yearwood had been granted several contracts from the Central Housing and Planning Authority. At least one of the contracts was issued after Yearwood married the Minister in August, 2017.
In responding to questions on the issue, Adams-Yearwood has said she had no hand in the award of the contracts to her husband and that she only became aware of them when he informed her.
President Granger on Thursday also announced that Dawn Hastings-Williams and Hemraj Rajkumar would be assuming the posts of Minister of State and Minister of Business, respectively, in light of the resignations of Joseph Harmon and Dominic Gaskin.
Hastings-Williams, who now replaces Harmon at the helm of the Ministry of the Presidency, yesterday said that she was humbled to know that President Granger had placed his confidence in her and appointed her as the Minister of State.
“I am excited and I look forward to working with all the stakeholders who are interested in the development of this country,” she said, while adding that she is not scared of the new size of her portfolio.
Meanwhile, Rajkumar told Stabroek News that he would continue the projects that were instituted by former Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin. “I have been to the ministry this morning and I spoke to the [Permanent Secretary] and I got a fair idea of what’s going on but I’m very fresh. I can’t give you exactly how we are going to proceed unless I study the documents. But I do believe the Ministry of Business is in good hands and I will work to ensure that all the agencies are properly managed and we move the Business Ministry ahead,” Rajkumar said.
When questioned about what specific areas he will focus on, he pointed out an interest in tourism. “Being from Essequibo, we have this tri-lake strategy where we are trying to merge the three lakes and bring them together. That is one of the things that will benefit our region. We also have the Supenaam Waterfront Project, which I believe will be a tourism destination for our people in Essequibo,” he added.
As part of the reassignments, Annette Ferguson, who was previously the Minister within the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, was made the Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing and Simona Broomes, who was a Minister within the Ministry of Natural Resources, was assigned as Minister within the Ministry of the Presidency with responsibility for youth affairs.
It still to be explained who will assume the responsibilities for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which had been the portfolio of Carl Greenidge, who was also forced to resign due to being a dual citizen.