Castille square (fotolia - no need to credit)

Prime Minister Robert Abela has taken the new year by the horns with a Cabinet reshuffle that has taken his own Ministers by surprise.

Many of the key posts remain unchanged: Clyde Caruana remains Minister for Finance, Employment and Air Malta, Ian Borg remains Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Byron Camilleri remains Minister for Home Affairs, National Security, Reforms and Equality, and Clifton Grima remains Minister for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation.

silvio schembri a2
Silvio Schembri

The business community will be interested to see that the Enterprise portfolio, previously the remit of Miriam Dalli, has been combined with Silvio Schembri’s Economy portfolio.

Minister Dalli will continue to serve as Minister for Energy and the Environment, but will also now be responsible for the Grand Harbour’s regeneration.

Minister Schembri meanwhile also gains the Strategic Projects portfolio, but loses the Lands portfolio.

Stefan-Zrinzo-Azzopardi
Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi

Indeed, it is the planning, construction and infrastructure sectors that have been most impacted – perhaps an acknowledgement of growing discontent related to these issues, even among party faithful.

Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, formerly Minister for Public Works, Planning and Construction Reform, has been stripped of all three, and given responsibility for Lands and the Implementation of the Electoral Programme.

Planning will now be under Clint Camilleri, in addition to his role as Minister for Gozo, while Justice Minister Jonathan Attard will add Construction Reform to his portfolio.

Chris Bonett

As for Public Works, it will now be the responsibility of Omar Farrugia as a new Parliamentary Secretary under Chris Bonett, himself a new addition to Cabinet, who will also be taking on Transport and Infrastructure – formerly the remit of Aaron Farrugia, who emerges as the biggest loser from the reshuffle after being demoted to the backbench.

Minister for Transport Clayton Bartolo will take on Public Cleansing, which will be the responsibility of Glenn Bedingfield who will serve as a new Parliamentary Secretary within his Ministry.

The other big change of the day is the removal of Chris Fearne from his position as Minister of Health, in which he led Malta’s efforts to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, in anticipation of his nomination to serve on the European Commission.

Instead, Minister Fearne, who fought a hotly contested leadership race against now-Prime Minister Abela, will take on the European Funds and Consumer Affairs portfolios. Parliamentary Secretary Andy Ellul has been moved from the Office of the Prime Minister and will now serve under Minister Fearne, ostensibly in preparation to take over as Minister should the former Health Minister become a European Commission.

The Health Ministry will now be run by Jo Etienne Abela, already responsible for Active Ageing. New Parliamentary Secretary Malcolm Paul Agius Galea will now take on a more active role in the elderly sector.

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