Prime Minister Robert Abela appointed a cabinet of 18 ministers and four parliamentary secretaries on Wednesday, shuffling some key figures around but also keeping 11 of his previous ministers in their same posts.
His new cabinet includes one more minister than his previous one, but half the number of parliamentary secretaries.
All three women elected on the Labour ticket have been given posts, while there was no room for former ministers Edward Zammit Lewis, Michael Farrugia and Carmelo Abela, or junior ministers Alex Muscat, Chris Agius or Deo Debattista.
Some key details concerning various portfolios have yet to emerge, with no clear indication yet as to which ministries will be responsible for particular state entities.
Health Minister and deputy prime minister
Previously: Health Minister and deputy prime minister
Fearne, who is 59 and a surgeon by profession, continues in the post that has defined his political career. The deputy prime minister has overseen Malta’s health sector since 2014, first as a parliamentary secretary and then as minister from 2016 onwards.
Despite losing a Labour leadership battle to Abela in January 2020, Fearne has risen to even greater prominence since then, by virtue of the COVID-19 pandemic. He will now have to steer Malta’s healthcare systems out of that period, oversee a paradigm shift in the mental health sector, including its crumbling infrastructure, and introduce new IVF and screening services.
Foreign Affairs, EU Affairs and Trade Minister
Previously: Infrastructure and Transport Minister
Borg's move to foreign affairs is an odd one: the prestigious title is usually reserved for more veteran politicians who are closer to retirement. Borg’s portfolio will however also include trade, and with it responsibility for encouraging local exports through Trade Malta. That may signal an intention by Abela to focus this portfolio on revenue generation rather than its more traditional diplomatic disposition.
In the role, Borg will also be in charge of Malta's bid for a non-permanent seat at the UN security council in 2023 - a bid that started some years back.
Despite being just 36 years old, Borg has almost 20 years of political experience under his belt. He began his career as the teenage mayor of Dingli - a post he was re-elected to – before making the leap into parliament in 2013. He has served in frontline positions ever since, first as parliamentary secretary for EU funds before being promoted to minister in 2017.
Economy, EU Funds and Lands Ministry
Previously: Economy and Industry Minister
There is no dramatic change for Schembri, the 36-year-old Luqa native who has served as Economy Minister since Abela assumed office. Schembri was first elected in 2013 and has previously served as parliamentary secretary for financial services and the digital economy.
However, Schembri's portfolio previously included trade promotion, which appears to have shifted away from him and into Ian Borg's portfolio.
Infrastructure, Transport and Capital Projects Minister
Previously: Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability
Aaron Farrugia hops from one super-ministry to another and will now be responsible for Malta’s major infrastructural and transport projects, including the completion of Labour’s roads revamp.
Judging by his job title, Farrugia will also be responsible for Projects Malta, and with it headline projects such as the Gozo tunnel and any eventual land reclamation plans that Labour hinted at in its manifesto.
Farrugia’s portfolio means he will also be responsible for further metro studies, and will play a key role in plans to build a second interconnector.
The 42-year-old has served at practically all levels of politics, having risen up Labour’s youth ranks before progressing to local council politics as deputy mayor of Ta’ Xbiex in 2005. He went on to serve as CEO of the Malta Freeport Corporation before moving into national politics. He was first elected to parliament in 2017 and appointed parliamentary secretary for EU funds, before being promoted to Environment Minister by Abela in early 2020.
Energy, Environment and Enterprise Minister
Previously: Energy and Enterprise Minister
It's a strong vote of confidence for the 45-year-old former MEP, who keeps her energy and enterprise remit while being handed the environment portfolio together with the job of implementing Labour's headline election pledge of investing €700 million into urban "green lungs".
Having retained the 'enterprise' part of her job description, it is likely that state agency Malta Enterprise will remain within her purview.
This will be Dalli's first full term in domestic politics, having been recalled from Brussels in late 2020 after six years as an MEP. Her time in Strasbourg was primarily characterised by her push to introduce new EU-wide vehicle emissions laws.
Dalli was co-opted into parliament in late 2020 and promoted into cabinet almost immediately, taking on an energy portfolio she was already familiar with, having served as a consultant to Konrad Mizzi during his time at the ministry.
Previously, Dalli spent 15 years as a TV presenter and news editor at the Labour Party-owned TV station ONE.
Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi
Planning and Public Works Minister
Previously: Parliamentary secretary for EU funds
It's a maiden ministerial post for Zrinzo Azzopardi, a 48-year-old lawyer who will be serving his second term in parliament.
Abela placed his trust in Zrinzo Azzopardi upon assuming office in 2020, making him junior minister responsible for EU funding. He has now promoted him to minister and made given him a substantial - and controversial - planning portfolio.
Previously, planning was the responsibility of Aaron Farrugia.
Before he was elected to parliament, Zrinzo Azzopardi served as chairman of the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation - a role he took on after an extended stint as the Labour Party's president.
Previously: Gozo Minister
Camilleri maintains the Gozo Ministry portfolio that he was first handed by Abela in 2020, after a strong electoral performance that saw him poll well over 6,000 first-count votes.
Just like last legislature, all three of Labour’s MPs on the 13th district have been made ministers.
It remains to be seen whether Camilleri will keep control of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit and with it, by proxy, hunting and trapping. That decision is being contested in court by Birdlife Malta, which on Wednesday again appealed for responsibility for the WBRU to be placed under the Environment ministry.
Camilleri, 34, comes from a family of politicians: his grandfather Angelo (il-Bedeq) was an MP while his father a Qala councillor. Camilleri graduated as an architect and was elected Qala mayor in 2012. First elected to parliament in 2017, he was appointed parliamentary secretary for agriculture by Joseph Muscat and later trusted with the Gozo portfolio by Robert Abela.
Home Affairs, Reforms and Equality Minister
Previously: Home Affairs Minister
Aged 34, Byron Camilleri is the youngest member of Abela’s cabinet but already has considerable political experience, having served as the Labour Party whip between 2017 and 2020 before being made Home Affairs Minister by Abela.
A lawyer by profession, he previously served as mayor of Fgura and has been active within the PL since a young age.
His Home Affairs portfolio - already a hefty one in its previous form – has now been beefed up even further. Responsibility for citizenship and Identity Malta shift to him, leaving Alex Muscat out in the cold, as does the remit for ‘reforms’ – something that was first Rosianne Cutajar and then Owen Bonnici’s responsibility in the previous legislature - and equality, which also fell under Bonnici.
Culture, National Heritage and Local Government Minister
Previously: Equality, Research and Innovation Minister
It is a partial return to familiar territory for Bonnici, who oversaw the Culture portfolio for four years between 2013 and 2017.
The buck as regards local government will also stop with him, as it did during that seven-year period, though he will have MP newcomer Keith Azzopardi Tanti to directly manage the local councils portfolio as a junior minister.
This will be Owen Bonnici’s fourth term in parliament, with the lawyer having first been elected to parliament in 2008 aged just 27.
Following his seven-year stint as Justice and Culture Minister, Abela reshuffled him into the Education portfolio in January 2020 and moved him again, this time to Research and Innovation Minister, just 10 months later. Before his parliamentary career, Bonnici served as deputy mayor of Marsascala.
Finance and Employment Minister
Previously: Finance and Employment Minister
Clyde Caruana, 37, retains the portfolio he was given in November 2020, just one month after being co-opted into parliament.
He will be tasked with continuing the country's post-COVID economic recovery while keeping a firm eye on the deficit, which ballooned as a result of stimulus measures but will need to come down in the medium term to ensure debt metrics remain in check.
An economist who previously worked at the NSO and spent several years chairing state employment agency JobsPlus, Caruana moved closer to the heart of power when Abela made him his chief of staff.
A few months later, he was brought into parliament and quickly replaced Edward Scicluna as Finance Minister.
Education, Sports, Research and Innovation Minister
Previously: Education and Sports Minister
Grima will continue to serve as Education and Sports Minister, a role he was assigned just three months ago following the resignation of Justyne Caruana.
It is a task that he will relish: in an interview with Times of Malta he had spoken of the portfolio with gusto, saying it gave him an opportunity to make a positive difference in people's lives.
He will also take over a portfolio that was devolved into its own ministry under Owen Bonnici for a year - research and innovation. The Labour Party has pledged to up R&D spending, which lags desperately behind the EU average, to 2% of GDP.
Grima will count on the work of parliamentary secretary Keith Azzopardi Tanti, who has been assigned those tasks specifically and will work under his supervision, to bring that to fruition.
Prior to being made a minister, Grima served as parliamentary secretary for sports. Grima in the past served as Mount Carmel hospital CEO - a role he was given in Labour’s first year in power - and then entered parliament in 2016 when Leo Brincat was nominated to the European Court of Auditors. He was previously mayor of Msida.
Social Justice and Children's Rights Minister
Previously: Social Justice and Solidarity, Family and Children's Rights Minister
Falzon's job title remains largely unchanged, though it no longer includes the 'Family' headline it previously did. But with no other obvious contender for assuming those responsibilities, it appears Falzon will continue to steer a portfolio he was handed in 2017. Prior to that he spent two years as parliamentary secretary for planning and simplification.
The Sliema-raised lawyer served as Labour's international secretary between 1998 and 2003, and deputy leader for party affairs between 2003 and 2008. He was first elected to parliament in 2008.
Julia Farrugia Portelli
Minister for Inclusion, Voluntary Organisations and Consumer Rights
Previously: Minister for Inclusion, Social Wellbeing and Voluntary Organisations
Farrugia Portelli keeps the portfolio assigned to her 18 months ago while also being given the additional tasks of overseeing the Medicines Authority and consumer rights protection.
The 44-year-old spent two decades in the media and served as editor of Illum before she entered frontline politics in 2017.
She had quite a tumultuous first legislative term: Joseph Muscat immediately made her a parliamentary secretary and Robert Abela promoted her to Tourism Minister upon his appointment, before reassigning her just 10 months into that job.
Attard is possibly the biggest winner of this new cabinet line-up, having been assigned the influential justice portfolio as his first-ever cabinet post.
He takes over that post from Edward Zammit Lewis, who is left without a cabinet post, and will be tasked with reforming judicial processes to increase efficiency, creating a structure for magistrates to be solely focused on criminal inquiries and introducing time limits on family court cases - all proposals within Labour's manifesto.
It's been a dizzying year for Attard, who co-opted into parliament last summer, replacing Manuel Mallia, and then performed strongly in Saturday's general election, garnering more than 4,500 votes on district 4.
A lawyer by profession. Attard started off his political career as a reporter with the Labour Party’s One TV and then moved into Chris Cardona's Economy Ministry as a communications coordinator and consultant to Cardona.
Previously: Tourism Minister
Abela has kept his trust in Bartolo as his tourism minister, having first assigned him that portfolio in 2020.
Bartolo faces the challenge of restarting a key sector that has languished in a pandemic-induced stupor for the past two years, and which continues to be plagued by uncertainty, fierce competition from rival destinations and infrastructural challenges.
A 34-year-old accountant, Bartolo served as Mellieħa deputy mayor between 2013 and 2017 before being elected to parliament. In 2020 he was appointed junior minister for financial services and digital economy before being promoted to minister later on that year.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights Minister
Previously: Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights Minister
Refalo keeps the portfolio assigned to him in 2020 as Agriculture and Fisheries Minister following a strong electoral performance that saw him receive roughly 5,000 votes. He is one of three Gozitan ministers in Abela’s cabinet.
The 65-year-old lawyer is one of parliament’s most familiar faces: he first served as an MP in 1987, at a time when some of his cabinet colleagues had yet been born. He served as Parliamentary Secretary for Gozo Affairs between 1996 and 1998 and then returned to cabinet in 2013 as Gozo Minister.
Refalo was left out of cabinet following the 2017 election and instead given the consolation prize of becoming Heritage Malta chairperson.
Social Housing Minister
Previously: Social Housing Minister
Galdes now enters his fifth legislature as an MP and continues in cabinet where he left off, as minister in charge of housing.
The Labour government made a concerted effort to develop hundreds of social housing units in the last legislature, having done little to nothing in that sector during its first term after returning to power.
Galdes played a key role in that effort, first as parliamentary secretary for housing and then as a full minister once Abela became prime minister.
He will now be responsible for seeing that drive through to completion, with Labour having pledged to build an additional 500 units in this upcoming term.
The 46-year-old was first co-opted into parliament in 2004 and has been elected ever since. He served as parliamentary secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights under the Ministry of Environment in the 2013-2017 legislature. Before entering parliament, he served as mayor of his hometown Qormi.
Active Ageing Minister
It's a red-letter day for Abela, a 46-year-old surgeon who has been appointed a minister before serving a single day as an MP.
Abela was elected for the first time on the 13th district over the weekend, taking a seat that was vacated by Justyne Caruana's exit from politics.
He takes over a ministry that was previously Michael Farrugia's. Farrugia who was originally rumoured to be moved to Speaker but was ultimately left without a post.
Alison Zerafa Civelli
Parliamentary secretary for local government
Zerafa Civelli will take responsibility for a sector is she very familiar with, having spent almost nine years as Cospicua mayor.
She was one of just four women elected in Saturday’s election. Her promotion to parlimentary secretary means she will enter the executive without having served a single day in parliament yet. Despite that, she will be a familiar face for the prime minister: she is Abela’s sister-in-law and has served on the boards of several state-run enterprises in the past years.
Keith Azzopardi Tanti
Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Research and Innovation
It's a direct path to the top table for Azzopardi Tanti, who stormed into parliament for the first time last weekend as the first elected candidate in district 1, outpacing more familiar names and forcing Jose Herrera into political retirement.
A two-time mayor of Pietá, the 38-year-old is a chartered accountant who has previously worked at the NSO and MFSA.
He has now been given responsibility for youth, research and innovation and will be the government's point-man for ensuring funding for research and development more than triples in the upcoming legislature.
Azzopardi Tanti will report directly to Education Minister Clifton Grima.
Parliamentary secretary for Social Dialogue within OPM
Andy Ellul was co-opted into parliament in the last months of the previous legislature and secured a seat in the upcoming one as Labour's fourth elected candidate on the third district.
A former policeman-turned-lawyer who has been a Labour insider for several years, Ellul will serve under the direct supervision of Robert Abela and operate from the Office of the Prime Minister.
Strong rumours that he will also be appointed Labour Party whip remain unconfirmed, with no mention of that in a government statement announcing the appointments.
Parliamentary secretary for EU funds
Chris Bonett enters the executive just days after being elected to parliament for the first time.
Bonett, a former mayor of Gżira who first ran for parliament in 2008, is closely associated with the sporting sector: he ran for Malta Football Association president, served as CEO of Sport Malta and advised Sports Minister Clifton Grima in the past legislature.
As a junior minister in charge of EU funds, Bonett will be responsible for planning and coordinating the implementation of a bumper package of EU funding that totals €2.25 billion up to 2020 – just under €2 billion in Multi-annual Financial Framework funds and an additional €300-odd million as part of the EU’s post-COVID aid package, dubbed the Next Generation EU.
He will report directly to Economy Minister Silvio Schembri.
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