A Cabinet reshuffle is underway and that could spell good news for some of Malta’s eight parliamentary secretaries.
As Prime Minister Robert Abela assesses his team’s performance over the past ten months, the parliamentary secretaries will be hoping they’ve done enough to be placed in charge of a ministry of their own in the coming days.
With this in mind, Lovin Malta asked the current junior ministers to list their three best achievements since the start of the year and here’s how they responded.
Alex Muscat (Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Communities)
1. Reforms at Identity Malta, including the recent launch of a new technologically-advanced ID card with several layers of security. Personal details will be engraved on a card made from strong polycarbonate material, with several individual layers fused together under immense pressure and heat to create a secure card and biometric data will be stored safely onto a contactless chip.
This follows the launch of new Maltese passports, ranked as one of the most secure in Europe, and the ongoing digitisation of Identity Malta’s processes, including for work permits and birth and death registrations.
2. The Malta Residency Visa Agency has contributed €5 million to government coffers by the end of October, meaning it has so far raised €23.25 million, money which goes directly into the nation’s “war chest” to be used in extraordinary times such as these.
An ongoing review is in the works to make this scheme more competitive.
3. The IIP scheme has generated around €1.5 billion, with around €91.5 million spent on social projects, such as a €1.5 million grant to Caritas, the provision of laptops and tablets to children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and a €3 million investment to greenify urban areas in Mosta, Ħamrun and Ħal Qormi.
“In the past weeks, the Government announced that the IIP had reached its capping and was being succeeded by new Residency regulations that may lead to citizenship.”
Clifton Grima (Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisations)
1. Allocating €3 million in funding to voluntary organisations, particularly those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is Malta’s largest investment in the voluntary sector which clearly shows just how much the government values the industry and its people.”
“Furthermore, this investment supports the long-term plan to create stability in the voluntary sector whilst also enhancing further transparency in the way they operate in our country.”
2. SportMalta’s transfer of land in Luqa to Valletta FC in order for it to be developed into a top-level sports complex.
“This clearly demonstrates how the Government is committed to further strengthen sports infrastructure to continue raising and reaching levels of success in sport in our country. The agreement was met by an unanimous vote of approval by both the government and the members of the opposition.”
3. The establishment of EquestriMalta, a new authority to regulate horse racing, including by establishing admission prices for racing events, safeguard horses’ welfare and raise standards to attract International events. This bill was also met by an unanimous vote of approval by all MPs.
Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi (Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds)
1. The conclusion of negotiations with the EU which saw Malta allocated €2.25 billion in EU funding over the next seven years, the largest financial allocation Malta has ever received since joining the EU.
“These results are considered outstanding not only due to the extent of the financial allocation but also when considering the dire scenario within which this allocation was negotiated.”
2. Acquiring an additional €21.9 million in EU funds to install a ship-to-shore facility in the Grand Harbour, which will lower cruise ship emissions drastically and improve air quality for residents.
3. The completion and near-completion of various EU-funded projects, with particular emphasis on the successful take up of EU funds by various youths and other NGOs from ERASMUS+ and European Solidarity Corps. Notwithstanding the challenges brought about by COVID-19, more projects were successful for EU funding in 2020.
Rosianne Cutajar (Parliamentary Secretary for Equality and Reforms)
1. Presenting a Bill to introduce positive measures for the election of more women to Parliament, addressing the current democratic deficit in the House.
“[These measures are] necessary and reasonable in a democratic society to ensure de facto equality between men and women in politics.”
2. Launching the public consultation on the national action plan against racism and xenophobia.
“In this regard, we consider hate speech a direct obstacle in achieving our goals towards an equal society. An equal society means that each one of us can set their goals in life and contribute to our nation’s progress and our social wellbeing without fear of being humiliated, intimidated or in any way harassed.”
3. Providing 24/7 free legal aid services to victims of domestic violence as part of a strategy to strengthen all necessary services that such people require.
Clayton Bartolo (Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services and Digital Economy)
1. Setting up Malta’s first ever digital economy think-tank, in the midst of a pandemic, which has been tasked with providing strategic guidelines to ensure Malta becomes a launchpad to the digital world in the coming years. This includes welcoming a diverse mix of tech companies in the fields of blockchain, AI, video gaming development, Esports, quantum computing, high performance computing, big data and cryptocurrencies.
“The Government’s vision of a Digital Malta will be an island that offers a world of opportunities to all those tech. industries who wish to reside their operations in Malta.”
2. Using blockchain technology in child adoption to cut red tape and eliminate poor record keeping, all while keeping the best interest of the child at the centre of the approach.
3. Launching a contact tracing app to let users know when they’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus. Using Apple and Google’s Bluetooth contact tracing, the app doesn’t collect user information and strikes a balance between alertness and GDPR regulations.
A recent European Commission report ranked Malta as the country that makes best use of online public services in Europe.
Chris Agius (Parliamentary Secretary for Lands and Construction)
1. Launching a Bill to regulate Malta’s real estate agents.
2. Launching a redemption scheme for people to purchase properties granted on a temporary emphyteusis and used as ordinary or summer residences.
3. Launching a scheme through which tenants of commercial properties leased from the government whose emphyteusis is set to expire after August 2025 can extend this lease for another 65 years.
Deo Debattista (Parliamentary Secretary for Consumer Protection and Public Cleansing)
1. Expanding the portfolio of the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority to include the regulation of olive oil placed on the market and the regulation of goldsmiths and silversmiths.
2. Recent investment in the Cleansing and Maintenance Department enabled the cleaning of over 70,000km of pavements, the continuous sanitisation of critical areas, including street furniture, beach equipment and public conveniences, and the education of people.
3. Strengthening the regulatory framework for medical devices through training initiatives and developing IT infrastructure, placing the Medicines Authority in the same position of strength for medical devices as it presently is for human medicines.
“The experience and expertise of the Medicines Authority will aid in attracting Notified Bodies to Malta, and translate to an increase in quality, safety and efficacy of medical device regulation and governance.”
Silvio Parnis (Parliamentary Secretary for Active Ageing and Persons With Disability)
1.Upgrading of St Vincent de Paul, including a €2.4 million investment in efficient energy systems, the extension of the residence and the addition of 500 new beds, the construction of new offices and a new pharmacy, the completion of the second phase of the refurbishment of the Rużar Briffa block, the renovation of roads and parking areas, and the upcoming completion of the Narcis building for young residents.
A plan to beautify the gardens and build a restaurant there is also in the works and the University of Malta has launched a course on elderly care.
2. Enhancing community care by granting free phlebotomy services to elderly people in their homes, extending the Home Help service for people older than 75, re-launching the Kartanzjan, refurbishing the Bormla, Mtarfa and Msida homes, improving WiFi connectivity in the Mellieħa home, granting a Nurse Call at the Floriana home, and extending the Silver T transport service for local transport of elderly people.
A €12 million tender for a new home in Birkirkara with 150 beds has been issued and work is ongoing to build a centre for dementia patients in Safi.
3. Initiatives by Aġenzija Sapport, such as the drafting of a national autism plan, the launch of a child screening strategy, the purchase of 15 vehicles for people with disabilities, the modernisation of a number of day centres.
A residence for people with disabilities will open in Żurrieq this year and two other homes are being planned for Qrendi and Kirkop. A 24/7 helpline for people with disabilities and their relatives is in the pipeline and work is ongoing on Project Reach, a mixed-residential community project in Naxxar.
As Abela prepares to shuffle his pack, all eyes will be on him to see where he places his two newest MPs, Miriam Dalli and Clyde Caruana. However, these eight parliamentary secretaries will have their fingers crossed that their work over the past ten months has convinced the Prime Minister to promote them to ministers, particularly now that a general election is fast approaching.
Have any of them done enough to impress the Prime Minister that much though?