We see a step forward and a step backward in the new government’s decision to replace the former Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour with the rebranded Ministry of Financial Services, Labour and Trade.

First, the good news.

The rebranding appears to signal a badly needed change of thinking following decades of governmental neglect of the business sector. Headed by Deputy Premier Lorna Smith, who has extensive experience in financial services, the new ministry combines responsibilities in a way that makes good sense.

Since Ms. Smith’s portfolio also includes e-government and related duties, for instance, she will be well positioned to address one of the most intractable problems facing the public service: the absurdly cumbersome work permit process.

It shouldn’t be difficult to streamline this process and move it online, but repeated efforts to do so have inexplicably failed for many years. We hope the new ministerial arrangement will finally facilitate success, along with similar reforms needed to improve the trade licence process and otherwise cut red tape.

Now for the bad news.

In the same way that rebranding the ministry signals a heightened governmental focus on business, it also appears to signal a diminished focus on the environment. Now, no ministry has “natural resources” in its name.

This does not bode well. Even if the decision amounts only to a rebranding exercise, it is out of step with the times, and it seems to downplay the critical importance of the territory’s natural environment in a way that we find troubling.

There is some consolation in the fact that natural resources responsibilities have been moved to the premier’s portfolio, but the premier is also finance minister and has an overly extensive list of other weighty responsibilities that include tourism, disaster recovery, international affairs, land, climate change, fisheries, agriculture and many more. Can he also give the environment its due?

Our concerns on this point are compounded by history. For decades, successive governments have sorely neglected the environment.

One of the most egregious examples is legislative inaction. In the 2000s, the Law Reform Commission drafted an urgently needed bill designed to bring the territory’s patchwork of environmental laws together under one umbrella overseen by a board. But to date, the bill has not come before the legislature, even though successive governments have been promising it for nearly two decades.

Meanwhile, the 10-year Protected Areas System Plan adopted in 2008 — which would protect some 30 percent of the territory’s nearshore environment — has been largely ignored, as has the 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Policy.

To make matters worse, the Conservation and Fisheries Department was disbanded under Premier Andrew Fahie’s recent administration with precious little explanation.

Against that backdrop, the removal of “natural resources” from the new ministry’s title feels like one more step toward the ongoing marginalisation of the territory’s environment.

We fervently hope that Dr. Wheatley’s government will prove otherwise by addressing the above issues straightaway. Otherwise, his administration should devise a new ministerial arrangement that treats the environment as what it is: one of the government’s most important responsibilities.

Taken together, these issues also speak to the need for at least one additional ministry to be created following the ongoing constitutional review.