EDITORIAL | Wednesday, 12 March 2008
In the last 24 hours Lawrence Gonzi will have been mulling hard over the formation of a new cabinet. Apart from deciding when to hold the general election, the formation of cabinet is the next most demanding privilege of a Prime Minister.
Much has been said by Gonzi about his intention to have a budgetary surplus by 2010. We find this a hard target to reach unless government undergoes some serious cost-cutting and runs an efficient capital outlay programme.
It may be too early in the day to talk about cost cutting but in forming his cabinet Gonzi has a golden opportunity to set the ball rolling on the right track.
A smaller cabinet will provide a leaner administration that costs less. This would be an important message by the Prime Minister.
The outgoing cabinet had some unexplainable overlaps that did not make sense and only added to the bureaucracy that hounds government departments. It made no sense to have competitiveness, employment relations, government investments, the MCESD, Malta Enterprise and the ETC under three or four different ministries. It made no sense to have a ministry responsible for roads and urban development and another ministry responsible for infrastructure. It made no sense to have communications and information technology captained by two different ministers or PBS being divided under two ministries with no clear idea of who was calling the shots.
There was a lot of pruning that could have been done in the outgoing cabinet. Gonzi refrained from stirring the waters.
But now the Prime Minister has a carte blanche. He not only has a commitment to select new people but should use this opportunity to downsize his government and send a clear message that he wants to reduce the cost of doing politics while doing away with unnecessary bureaucracy.
Gonzi should opt for a focussed cabinet of eight or nine ministers with a parliamentary secretary for each minister. He should not overload his personal portfolio so that he can keep a watchful eye on what is happening. Gonzi needs to get out of the trenches and hover above the battlefield so that he will have a wider picture of things.
He now has the legitimacy of an election to select whom he wants and keep tabs on every minister. This time around Gonzi cannot allow mistakes such as Jesmond Mugliett’s faux pas last year to bog his government down. He must be adamant on project deadlines and expenses.
Gonzi has an ambitious electoral programme to fulfill and it will require energy, diligence, a tight hold on expenditure and a lot of caution not to allow his ministers and entourage to fall into the trap of complacency and arrogance after so many years in power.
Winning the election was a very hard nut to crack given that all odds were against the PN. But running the country at a time when the world economy is on a downward trend at the same time that government is committed to achieve a surplus is an even harder nut to crack.
Will Gonzi manage to be the nutcracker he has proved to be until now?
We will have to wait and see. But for sure, the GonziPN stratagem meant that Gonzi has hinged his government’s success or failure solely to his name.
A big risk indeed but one necessitated by circumstances. Gonzi dared and won. He will have to continue winning by riding over the waves of uncertainty to escape being harmed by the same stratagem that gave him fortune.
The nation’s eyes are on Gonzi and the 353 proposals which propelled the PN to government for the next five years. We hope that the Prime Minister will deliver as promised and the first sign of a new way of doing politics should be given today when Gonzi is expected to announce his cabinet.
12 March 2008
ISSUE NO. 526
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