Largest-ever cab­i­net sworn in

The Malta Business Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - John Cor­dina

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.

Marie-Louise Coleiro

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.

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