The government has rescinded the ministerial pay raise which was decided in 2008.

The announcement was made by the prime minister this afternoon when he also announced a government reshuffle.

He said the decision had been taken under a different economic scenario but it was now being rescinded to set an example as the government embarked on a cost-cutting exercise. It comes into force immediately.

The raise had seen ministers receive their honoraria as MPs, along with their ministerial pay. They will henceforth only receive their ministerial salary.

Dr Gonzi also announced that three parliamentary secretaries have been made  ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Mario de Marco is Minister of Tourism and the Environment, also retaining responsibility for Culture - areas he is already responsible for within the Office of the Prime Minister.

Chris Said is Minister of Justice, including the prisons, and may also take responsibility for social affairs. Those portfolios are currently held by ministers Carm Mifsud Bonnici and Dolores Cristina.

Jason Azzopardi is Minister responsible for Lands, Small Business and Consumer and Competition affairs. He has already been responsible for the first two while consumer affairs was previously under Dr Said.

They will be sworn in later this afternoon.

Dolores Cristina will remain responsible for Education and will retain responsibility for employment, including the ETC.

Carm Mifsud Bonnici will remain minister of home affairs, but will exchange responsibility for justice with local government from Dr Said. Dr Mifsud Bonnici will also become Leader of the House of Representatives, currently the responsibility of Foreign Minister Tonio Borg.

Dr Gonzi said his Office would no longer have parliamentary secretaries and would focus on strategic issues in view of serious problems on the international front which would affect Malta.

He said that Malta needed to be well prepared to meet the waves produced by the storm. Protecting and creating jobs would remain a priority, he said, as well as fiscal consolidation. The government, he said, had embarked on a cost cutting exercise and a collective national effort was needed. Therefore, the government has decided that the decision taken under a different scenario which raised the way for ministers was being withdrawn immediately.

The prime minister this morning held one-to-one meetings at Castille with a number of ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

The reshuffle had been expected ever since Dr Gonzi in mid-November said he was considering splitting the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs, a request made by backbencher Franco Debono as he pressed for reforms in the justice sector. Dr Debono later warned that he would withdraw his support for the government unless the ministry was split.

This morning Dr Debono said there was an impasse over what reforms should be carried out in the justice sector in the remaining year of the legislature. 

In initial comments about the reshuffle this afternoon, he expressed disappointment, saying he wanted to live in a democracy and not an oligarchy.

He also pointed to comments he made to timesofmalta.com this morning where he expressed concern that the prime minister was being held hostage by a clique around him.

"He can run, but he cannot hide" Dr Debono said.

The Nationalist MP, who was not informed about the reshuffle before it happened, noted that just this morning he had voiced his disagreement about the ministerial pay raise. He had said that were he to have been appointed minister, he would have refused the raise it because it was decided being behind parliament's back, undermining its dignity.

See Dr Debono's comments before the reshuffle at http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120106/local/debono-questions-if-dr-gonzi-is-being-held-hostage-by-clique.401227

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