A Cabinet for the People

Fausto rightly asks why I have not examined other issues than the important one of representation in this post-electoral period. He is right in pointing out that there are other issues to discuss and I regret not having had enough time to blog about this earlier but the general impression that I spend my day stuck to the computer blogging is nor exactly correct – life goes on and work is work. Anyways, back to the punditry.

Before the election we heard much about the ability of the people to choose their own ministers. I guess that this was proven to be wrong by the electorate themselves. Even if we were to avoid to use the ugly word “cronyism” I guess that the sympathy for certain politicians has very little to do with capability and expertise and a lot to do with a “show me the money” kind of logic. The Prime Minister did try to warn the voters to be very careful about who to choose when he warned that his new cabinet would depend very much on what the people gave him to choose from.

It was not exactly a buffet des gourmandises in the end. To put it diplomatically PM Gonzi was not exactly spoilt for choice. My overall mark for his ultimate solution is a strong 8/10. We did hear that the ministerial responsibilities were somewhat dictated by the European Union classifications but I do believe that the shrinking of the cabinet to the pre-Mintoffian era size is a rational choice. The delegated power can be better monitored and co-ordinated. Personally I was not a big fan of this emphasis on youth – as though youth was the major criterion for effective change. The electorate failed to provide what could have been a valuable piece of the mosaic when it snubbed Minister Louis Galea and his experience.

Gozo or at least nearly 5,000 Gozitans confirmed that the Giovanna Debono well of fortune has not yet run dry. Many speculated that her term as Minister for Gozo was nearing an end. I would have bet my bottom euro that Chris Said was the right man to step into her shoes (preferably without the high heels) and change the fortunes of an island that has run dry of ideas for regeneration. The Gozo Ministry case must have been the only instance where Gonzi did not sum up enough courage to close a cycle and hand on the baton of change. Admittedly the Gozitan vote is difficult to handle, and more particular. The blatant rivalry between Chris Said and Giovanna Debono surely did not help Gonzi’s decision making. (There was even an instance where Said’s team reported Debon’s team for distributing anti-Said flyers in Gozo). To be fair Gonzi might need a good, young salesman for the post of Public Dialogue and Information and if there is anyone who has proven he has the energy to pull off innovative plans it is Chris Said.

Dolores Cristina has moved to the Education Ministry. I have no doubt that Mrs Cristina can continue the sterling work of Louis Galea – and probably also lend more of a listening ear to the different interests in this sector. It will be interesting to see whether Louis Galea’s balancing of government versus private school interests will be continued in the same manner by the new minister.

George Pullicino. Many thought that the rotund Minister would be written off – mainly because of his MEPA association under his previous responsibilities. Gonzi has delivered the message that George still has a lot to give and I am sure that Pullicino now knows that he will be under double scrutiny from the public eye. His leftover responsibilities are added on to such important areas as R&D and Alternative Energy as well as that enigmatic duty to go on looking for oil. Holy Grail apart GP will do well to listen to a revamped AD among others when it comes to planning ahead. This will be the moment of truth when the cabinet proves that outside electoral campaigns when denigrating hard working, dedicated politicians is a necessary evil to defeat the competition (under these laws) it is more productive to hear what experts in the field have to say. Consultation and dialogue can benefit both sides to avoid errors committed in the past.

Austin Gatt. This is my fetish minister. Gatt’s arrogance is sometimes the right kind of arrogance needed by a government. Often misinterpreted, Gatt is the kind of Minister necessary to handle those slippery circumstances. Past the consultation, past the weighing of alternatives, past the dialogue, once all that is done you need the firm hand of a no-nonsense Minister, and the Thatcherite version of the half-Gozitan, half-Citizen is the right formula for success. Might need to be harnessed every now and then from the image front.

Tonio Fenech, John Dalli, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici. No new faces here either. Tonio Fenech has proven to be an able worker ant. He escaped untarnished from the mud-slinging electoral match and thus was an “easy” choice for the PM. Dalli returns and rightly so. The scandals that afflicted him have been shelved and Gonzi might also be proving a point here – simply being stuck in the mud is not enough to dent a political career – if you are cleared then there is space for a return. Not something JPO can hope for seeing that his constant denial of knowledge of anything to do with Mistra seems to have exploded in his face.

Small aside here. JPO’s treatment by the party had its setbacks too. He was an expendable puppet in the war with Sant. In the party’s list of priorities, proving that Sant would chicken out from confrontation was more important than harnessing a potentially damaging candidate. Projecting him into the limelight to outwit Sant meant that JPO could not limit the damage and his fruitless denial only ended up in Gonzi’s ruling out a Cabinet position for the man who garnered a voting bananza simply on the “sympathy” basis. In the process PN also showed a nasty side in its use of the media and journalists to achieve its aim. Nul points and more.

CMB inherits a judiciary that needs to inspire a new confidence. The subject has not won much space in the pre-electoral discussion and maybe merits a deep debate of its own. Pleasures yet to come.

I am not a big fan of Clyde Puli as a politician. I admit that having this kind of prejudice would lead to an unjust assessment and that concluding that his is a token presence for the youth ticket would be a tad bit unfair. I’d rather reserve judgement on what will be done hoping that Clyde proves my suspicions to be unfounded. As for Joe Cassar, Jason Azzopardi, Mario Galea and Mario Demarco I do not have anything in particular to add at this junction. I almost forgot Tonio Borg. The new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs has sufficient experience to pull off his new Ministry. Sadly his conservative streak will sound even more unreasonable every time he tries to impose his ideas on the rest of the electorate. Of all Ministers, Dr Borg would do well to remember that his government no longer enjoys the support of the majority of the electorate.

A final note at the end of this long post. A quick look at the districts from which the new Cabinet hails paints an interesting picture:

District 1: Demarco, Gatt
District 3 – Mifsud Bonnici, Galea
District 6 – Dalli, Pulli
District 8 – Fenech, Borg
District 10 – Pullicino, Cristina
District 13 – Debono, Said

I have Bertu to thank for pointing this out. It may be a coincidence. It may say nothing at all. On the other hand the thought does cross one’s mind that with a slim one-seat majority in government Gonzi made sure that the districtual (vote-pulling) power is divided between his cabinet – equally on each district. Which in itself would not be a negative point. We have often criticised the “show me the money” factor that leads to cronyism and ministerial decisions being based on favours for their electoral base. Just a point to reflect upon. As I said, it could be nothing. Other interpretations are welcome.

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5 responses to “A Cabinet for the People

  1. Good point on the size of Cabinet. I think of all decisions — who to keep out, who to get in, what to give to whom — this was Gonzi’s most courageous unlike his predecessor whose “Jesuitical” solution of giving something to everyone occasionally led to a Cabinet being larger than the backbench!

    As to the geographical spread I think it is not only wise (and not only from a partisan point of view) but also fair. Districts ensure that MPs are geographically distributed without there being any similar formal mechanisms for cabinet. Cabinet, after all, takes decisions for the whole country and even responsibility is collegial.

    So what do you think, Louis Galea for speaker?

    P.S. Please drop this “People” thing; you sound like a commie. What next? “People’s Republic of Malta”?

  2. A Cabinet for the People

    “A quick look at the districts from which the new Cabinet hails paints an interesting picture:

    District 1: Demarco, Gatt
    District 3 – Mifsud Bonnici, Galea
    District 6 – Dalli, Puli
    District 8 – Fenech, Borg
    District 10 – Pullicino, Cristina
    District 13 – Debono, Said

    I have Bertu to thank for pointing this out. It may be a coincidence. It may say nothing at all. On the other hand the thought does cross one’s mind that with a slim one-seat majority in government Gonzi made sure that the districtual (vote-pulling) power is divided between his cabinet – equally on each district”.

    Yes, the overall picture does portray method, even though some districts are missing. Hence, I am not sure whether one could honestly retain the remark “equally on each district”.

    Gonzi’s apparent principle, whether intentional or otherwise, must be regarded as a positive strategical measure.

  3. VINCE COLLINS

    The PM appointed what he thinks are the best people available to him, nothing more nothing less. You guys are beginning to sound like “analysts” who try to find reasons or methods where none exist.

  4. I sat at my retired sun kissed table nibbling at my tuna salad. On the next table sat at least eight able-bodied men discussing the merits and demerits of cigarettes over grass…the overall opinion favored the latter because of its pure qualities as opposed to the array of toxins to be found in cigs…when suddenly one of the men asked who was scheduled to ‘punch’. A name of a non-present was put forward to ease the momentary uncomfortable silence back into relaxed chatter on that wonderful Spring day…Marsalforn 2007

  5. Fausto Majistral Says:
    March 16, 2008 at 8:29 am

    “So what do you think, Louis Galea for speaker?”

    Louis Galea has enough political and enough parliamentary experience to qualify, and to be considered, as Speaker of the House. He might be somewhat too rigid anti-MLP.

    The NP has much to thank Louis Galea for. Appointment as an ambassador in one of the “key” EU member countries could also be an adequate reward for Louis Galea.

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