Cabinet reshuffle | Silvio Parnis loses Cabinet post, Justyne Caruana is education minister, Schembri loses Air Malta

Silvio Parnis loses Cabinet post as parliamentary secretary for elderly, Justyne Caruana is back as minister for education, Clayton Bartolo replaces Julia Farrugia as tourism minister, Air Malta is passed on to Clyde Caruana

All change for the 2020 Cabinet?
All change for the 2020 Cabinet?

Robert Abela has reshuffled his Cabinet eleven months into his premiership, and it is clear that COVID-19 has cost his ministers their portfolios, and in one case, his job.

Silvio Parnis is out, losing his parliamentary secretariat for the elderly after an outbreak of coronavirus inside homes for the elderly raised questions on his ability to marshal a strategy to protect elderly patients.

Owen Bonnici is effectively demoted ‘sideways’, losing the education portfolio after delays in school opening procedures due to coronavirus protocols, and instead is made minister of a new research and innovation ministry. However, this ministry will still be tasked to harness a post-COVID-19 strategy.

Justyne Caruana will be made education minister
Justyne Caruana will be made education minister

And Julia Farrugia Portelli also takes the fall after a summer opening many blamed for a spike in COVID-19 cases, with her tourism portfolio passed on to former junior minister Clayton Bartolo.

Farrugia Portelli is now minister for inclusion and quality of life, with parliamentary secretary Clifton Grima within her ministry, responsible for sports, recreation and NGOs.

Justyne Caruana will take the education ministry, returned to Cabinet after the former Gozo minister resigned in January 2020 after her then-husband, former deputy police commissioner Silvio Valletta, was revealed to have travelled with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech to watch a football match in the UK.

Former energy minister Michael Farrugia, a doctor by profession, will be minister for the elderly; his portfolio is now under the purview of former Labour MEP Miriam Dalli, who is minister for energy, enterprise and sustainable development.

Miriam Dalli will be minister for energy and sustainable development goals
Miriam Dalli will be minister for energy and sustainable development goals

Dalli has been accorded Malta Enterprise, now hived off from Silvio Schembri’s economy ministry. The latter also loses national airline Air Malta, which now passed on to new finance minister Clyde Caruana, Robert Abela’s former head of secretariat.

Clayton Bartolo will be made tourism minister
Clayton Bartolo will be made tourism minister

Schembri has lost two major elements of his ministry, and instead gets accorded the Lands Authority from its former ministry for infrastructure and transport. But he also gained digital economy services from the finance ministry and that includes a host of major regulators such as the Malta Gaming Authority, the MFSA, Gaming Malta, MITA and the Malta Communications Authority, MDIA and Tech.mt.

That ministry remains harnessed by Ian Borg, who loses his parliamentary secretary Chris Agius to the environment ministry. Aaron Farrugia retained his entire ministry, gaining Agius as parliamentary secretary for construction, finally integrating the entire planning portfolio within the environment ministry.

There were no changes for health minister Chris Fearne, foreign minister Evarist Bartolo, minister for arts, national heritage, and local councils José Herrera, transport and infrastructure minister Ian Borg, social policy minister Michael Falzon, justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis, agriculture and fisheries minister Anton Refalo, social accommodation minister Roderick Galdes, Gozo minister Clint Camilleri, and home affairs minister Byron Camilleri.

Carmelo Abela remains a minister within the OPM. Parliamentary secretaries Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, Rosianne Cutajar, Alex Muscat and Deo Debattista retained their roles.

There are now 17 ministers, and six parliamentary secretaries.

Earlier this week, finance minister Edward Scicluna was slated for resignation so that he take up a new post as governor of the Central Bank.

Abela shifted Caruana into the House of Representatives in a technocratic co-option to make the former Jobsplus boss Malta’s next finance minister, replacing party veteran Edward Scicluna.

For the last four weeks, ministers have been on tenterhooks at news of an impending reshuffle. Abela was warned against sowing resentment inside constituencies who could feel disenfranchised if their MP loses their ministerial portfolio. Indeed, Gozo gets three ministers with the return of Justyne Caruana.

Abela has also appointed EU policy expert Glenn Micallef as his head of secretariat, replacing Clyde Caruana.

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