The face of change

Having spent almost two years at the helm of the party, Simon Busuttil is slowly, but persistently, succeeding in re-establishing the Nationalist Party to become once again the better option

It takes strong leadership skills to undertake the bold reshuffle of the kind we have seen a few days ago by Simon Busuttil. This is as yet, although I expect more changes to come, the biggest change effected by the Leader of the Opposition since being elected leader of the Nationalist Party. 

Our party has a mammoth task ahead of it – it must convince the majority of the electorate of its suitability as an alternative governing party, and it has three years left to do so. The Nationalist Party has gone through a great deal of change since enduring the devastating loss at the 2013 general election. It is for this reason that change, to a substantial extent for that matter, has been necessary within the Nationalist Party, and continues to be necessary in spite of the changes the party has undertaken thus far. The PN has radically changed its statute, giving the right to its members to elect future party leaders. It has opened up its structures to new members, and founded new sections to better reflect a representation that mirrors changes in society. 

However, change within a party cannot be solely limited to the founding of new party structures – it requires something more than that. You see, being a politician is not an automatic entitlement reserved to anyone in particular – if that were the case, it would have been a dictatorship. That is clearly not the case.

Being a politician is a hard-earned privilege intrinsically linked to the people’s trust. Nonetheless, politics operates within a team (the party), and personal interests ought to be adapted to give importance to primarily address the needs of the team and the citizens. Personal interests could and do come into play owing to the fact that politicians are ultimately humans made of flesh, and yes we have feelings (even though some think we are robots with an impenetrable skin). 

Nonetheless, we have had instances throughout the past legislature, when personal egos trampled over the team’s overall interests. We have had characters whose self-centred egos simply made it impossible for the team to work and succeed. This is what led to the public perception that the Nationalist Party could be a divided and disoriented one. 

It is for this reason that Busuttil chose the right timing for the reshuffle. Having spent almost two years at the helm of the party, Simon Busuttil is slowly, but persistently, succeeding in re-establishing the Nationalist Party to become once again the better option. Perhaps some could argue that his decision to reshuffle could have come earlier. The fact that he was able to complete a drastic change of the kind we have seen in the past days, in the process maintaining a unified team, goes to demonstrate that the timing was just right. 

His decision to reshuffle, to an extent that shadowing portfolios are no longer recognisable from what they used to be, is a clear sign that he means business. His state of readiness in giving it his all in making the Nationalist Party trusted once again by the majority is unquestionable. This goes to show that he is not simply a transitional leader, but a Prime Minister in the making. 

The reshuffle has most certainly sent shivers down Muscat’s spine, who seems to have taken Simon Busuttil too lightly so far. In taking Simon Busuttil lightly, Muscat seems to be repeating the Nationalist Party’s mistake during the past legislature, when it underestimated Muscat’s capability. If anything is to go by, Busuttil’s bold decision demonstrates decisive thinking and courageous decision-making capabilities. Muscat tried to overshadow the news brought about by the reshuffle by nominating ousted Health Minister Godfrey Farrugia to become the Labour parliamentary group’s whip. He should also perhaps thank the timing of the court’s decision on the spring hunting referendum for stealing part of the show. In any case, Busuttil’s latest move will not be quickly forgotten, not for the time being. 

Like all my colleagues, the reshuffle has brought changes to my portfolio. For the past two years, I have been tasked with shadowing planning, lands and the public service. I will now continue to shadow planning and lands, with environment and infrastructure added to it.

Being responsible for development and environment will certainly be no mean feat. It requires a delicate balance, which I intend to achieve. The sector is destined to go through major changes throughout this year, with Parliament debating the Spatial Plan for Environment and Development, the separation of MEPA and the changes to the local plans.

We shall continue to keep an eye on the operations of the Lands Department, which has been through two scandals in the past year: Labour’s Australia Hall sale and the Café Premier bailout. Infrastructure will likewise require its own attention, with a number of infrastructural projects starting up, the majority through EU funds and a continued legacy of the previous PN administration. 

This is our duty – to serve the electorate in praising the good and criticising the wrong.  2015 promises to be an exciting time for the PN, as the government turns two years old. Bring it on!

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