Largest-ever cabinet sworn in
There are fifteen ministers – Prime Minister Joseph Muscat included – and eight parliamentary secretaries in the new Cabinet sworn in yesterday evening, making it the largest-ever in Maltese history.
Until the new parliament building is ready, some of the new front-benchers will actually have to settle for a back-bench place: there are just 20 front-bench seats on each side of the current chamber in the Palace in Valletta.
The swearing-in ceremony at the Palace confirmed what many had long suspected: that the new cabinet would be considerably larger than the small one which Dr Muscat’s predecessor Lawrence Gonzi had. In light of Labour’s criticism of the parliamentary honoraria granted to cabinet members – and subsequently revoked – in the last legislature, calculations showing that the total expense on ministerial salaries is now even higher surfaced on social media.
As Prime Minister, Dr Muscat will retain responsibility over planning – including MEPA – and lands. However, he will be assisted by a Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and Simplification of Administrative Process – Michael Farrugia – who will be responsible for reducing government bureaucracy by a quarter.
Apart from being appointed Deputy Prime Minister, Labour Party deputy leader Louis
Grech will be Minister for EU Affairs and Implementation of the Electoral Manifesto. The youngest MP in this legislature, 27-year-old Ian Borg, has been made Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds. Conversely, the oldest MP –
George Vella, who will turn 71 next month – has been reappointed to the position he had served between 1996 and 1998: Minister for Foreign Affairs. But Dr Vella, who had opposed EU membership back then, will no longer be responsible for relations with the EU, but only for relation with other international institutions and with individual foreign countries.
Dr Vella is one of three former ministers reappointed to the position they had served in the 1996-98 Labour Government.
The second is Karmenu Vella, who had been the party’s finance spokesman but who has been made Minister for Tourism once more. Mr Vella, an MP since 1976, also served minister for industry and for public works during the 1980s.
The tourism portfolio also includes culture – including the Valletta 2018 Capital for Culture preparations – and, curiously enough, local government. But these two matters will be the direct responsibility of a parliamentary secretary: José Her
rera, who had been the party’s spokesman on justice.
The third minister reappointed to a former post is Evarist Bar
tolo, who has been made Minister for Education and Employment. He will be assisted by Stefan Buontempo, whose full title is Parliamentary Secre- tary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport. Two other 1996-98 ministers –
Leo Brincat and Joe Mizzi – made it to cabinet, but under a different portfolio.
Mr Brincat is now Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, but as explained above, his portfolio does not include MEPA. Labour’s former MEPA spokesman, Roderick Galdes, was made Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights within Mr Brincat’s ministry.
Mr Mizzi, a minister without portfolio within the Office of the Prime Minister in 1996-98, became Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.
Anton Refalo, who had been Parliamentary Secretary for Gozo in 1996-98, has been promoted, this time round, to Minister for Gozo. Labour’s decision to demote the Gozo ministry to a parliamentary secretariat in 1996 has been widely criticised, even in the last election campaign.
Another former parliamentary secretary became a minister:
Helena Dalli. The former Parliamentary Secretary for Women’s Rights is now Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Rights, whose portfolio also includes data protection and the Medicines Authority.
The Labour Party has separated economic affairs from financial matters, and Chris
Cardona became Minister for Economy, Investment and Small Business. Curiously, ports are
also his responsibility, and not Mr Mizzi’s. Newly-elected MP Edward
Zammit-Lewis will be assisting Dr Cardona as Parliamentary Secretary for Competitiveness and Economic Growth.
Preca is the new Family and Social Solidarity Minister: she will be assisted by Gozitan MP
Franco Mercieca, the new Parliamentary Secretary for Rights of Persons with Disability and Active Ageing.
Although Labour had criticised the fact that the same minister had been responsible for justice and home affairs in the last legislature, the same situation has technically been retained, although with the addition of a parliamentary secretary. Criminal lawyer Manwel
Mallia is the new Minister for Home Affairs and National Security – a portfolio which, somewhat bizarrely, also includes broadcasting and PBS – while
Owen Bonnici is the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice. Economist and outgoing MEP
Edward Scicluna was made Finance Minister, responsible for the budget, taxation and financial services regulation.
The person who presented Labour Party’s energy proposals,
Konrad Mizzi, was, somewhat unsurprisingly, made Minister for Energy and the Conservation of Water.
The last minister to be sworn in – although the parliamentary secretaries were actually sworn in afterwards – was the new Health Minister, Żebbuġ doctor Godfrey Farrugia.