After weeks of expectation and speculation, Robert Abela has finally reshuffled his Cabinet, giving the public an insight into how the Prime Minister views his team’s performance and their prospects for the future.
Here are the most key changes from today’s reshuffle.
1. It’s the largest Cabinet in Malta’s history
With 20 ministers and six parliamentary secretaries, this is the largest Cabinet in Malta’s history, breaking the record set by Abela himself earlier this year. There are also four more ministers and two fewer parliamentary secretaries than there used to be, with not a single minister getting demoted and only one parliamentary secretary, Silvio Parnis, losing his position in Cabinet.
2. It’s the most female-represented Cabinet in Malta’s history
All the Labour Party’s four female MPs are included in Cabinet, making it the most female-represented Cabinet in Malta’s history. Miriam Dalli has been made Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development, Justyne Caruana has been made Minister for Education, Rosianne Cutajar has remained Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms and Equality, and Julia Farrugia has been moved from Tourism to Inclusion and Quality of Life, an entirely new ministry which includes responsibility for people with disabilities.
3. Clyde Caruana is Finance Minister
As expected, newly co-opted MP Clyde Caruana has been made Finance Minister, replacing Edward Scicluna who has moved on after seven years in charge to become Central Bank Governor.
4. Three entirely new ministries
Abela’s Cabinet includes three entirely new ministries – those led by Dalli and Farrugia Portelli and a third one, for research, innovation and the coordination of Malta’s post-COVID-19 strategy which will be led by Owen Bonnici. This could give a new emphasis to research and innovation, which have traditionally been handed to a parliamentary secretary.
5. Construction has moved from Ian Borg to Aaron Farrugia
Chris Agius has remained parliamentary secretary for construction but he has moved from Ian Borg’s Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects to Aaron Farrugia’s Ministry for the Environment, Planning and Climate Change. Agius was previously also parliamentary secretary for lands but this responsibility has now moved to the Economy Ministry, led by Silvio Schembri.
6. A new Tourism Minister
Clayton Bartolo is the only parliamentary secretary who got promoted to the status of minister, replacing Julia Farrugia Portelli as Tourism Minister. Unlike his predecessor, Bartolo will also be in charge of Air Malta but the airport and the new state-owned airline Malta MedAir will remain the responsibility of the Economy Ministry.
No one has succeeded Bartolo as parliamentary secretary for financial services and the digital economy but responsibility for the digital economy has now moved to the Economy Ministry and financial services to the Finance Ministry.
7. A new Minister for the Elderly
Silvio Parnis, the previous parliamentary secretary for the elderly and active ageing, was highly criticised for his response to COVID-19 and faced calls for his resignation by the Nationalist Party. Not only has he been removed from Cabinet but his portfolio has been elevated to the status of Ministry, which will be presided over by Michael Farrugia.
8. No repercussions for friendships with Yorgen Fenech
Abela started life as Prime Minister by removing Justyne Caruana as Gozo Minister after it was revealed that her husband, former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta, had shared a close friendship with Yorgen Fenech, the main suspect in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, even going on holiday together.
However, Caruana has returned to Cabinet as Education Minister, while Edward Zammit Lewis has remained Justice Minister even though Times of Malta had reported he and Fenech exchanged around 700 WhatsApp messages between January and October 2019, after the businessman was revealed to be the owner of 17 Black.
With data from Fenech’s phone set to be presented in court in the near future, it appears Abela has had a change of heart with regards his strategy involving Cabinet ministers linked to the murder suspect.
What do you make of the new Cabinet?