I have experienced both Nationalist and Labour administrations in my lifetime but I have never seen as much energy and effort being put in by the current Cabinet of Ministers. I have been closely observing and analysing the Prime Minister and his team of ministers, observing their contrasting styles, their rise and (exceptionally) their fall, their successes and failures, and the strategy and meaning of some reshuffles that had necessarily taken place.
Some of them are familiar faces, others were not in the limelight but every single one of them is passionate about making a difference in society. There is a contagious passion for empowering vulnerable groups of people to achieve their full potential, and each team member is committed to achieving this. The Labour Movement is promoting a strong advocacy for children, young people and the disadvantaged in our society, believing strongly in our youth and their worth. It is made up of compassionate, energetic, caring and supportive persons who get things done.
I have never seen as much energy and effort being put in by the current Cabinet of Ministers.
Every Minister provides strategic direction and guidance to their team. All departments interact directly with the public through front-facing services, and one can perceive a holistic and continuous endeavour to oversee a delivery of service that is efficient and of the highest quality. There is a great sense of duty to oversee how all departments effectively interconnect and work hand in hand.
We are navigating challenging times. We will need to push for greater social stability ‒ as well as continue in our efforts to re-skill segments of our population ‒ in order to secure jobs. At the heart of this will be a revolution around fostering positive mindsets, attitudes and behaviours, which all ministries will look to drive forward. It is crucial that members of the public are able to access their ministers at all times and on all pertinent issues.
We have a government that was able to keep the tourism and transport engines running. A government that encourages and practices open dialogue and the sharing of ideas. An administration with a vision for transport that is fully supported and resourced, and is able to effectively resolve the country’s transport-related issues, particularly regarding traffic. Ministers have never been reticent about how they have performed in office. Prime Minister Robert Abela was able to look at what makes a minister effective in being able to define and take forward his or her policy objectives. In short, what attributes and skills define a successful minister and, above all, what can be done to improve their performance. Effective ministers are easy to describe but much harder to find and develop. Yet here we have a leader who has the enviable skill and foresight to pick out and identify those members in the parliamentary group who have all it takes to develop in that manner.
What makes an effective minister?
The job of a government minister is a strange one. There is no job description, no application, no interview and no tuition: you are picked from among your peers, by the Prime Minister, to be a chief decision-maker and a joint leader of a Cabinet. Ministers are accountable for everything in their remit. It can be frustrating to ministers that they receive no credit when things go well or when disaster is averted, but are the first to be blamed when something ostensibly outside of their control goes wrong. This is particularly true of the Abela administration but every minister and parliamentary secretary has managed to weather every storm that has arisen.
The Labour Movement is promoting a strong advocacy for children, young people and the disadvantaged in our society.
It was clear from the outset that our ministers came into government with a genuine desire and drive to get things done; to deliver on the promises and demonstrate the values on which their party had been elected. They were ambitious and frustrated when their efforts to shape policy were slowed down. Actually delivering reforms, while also juggling the various pressures of office, involves a slightly different skill set to the idea generation and consensus-building needed for policy development. That skill was all-pervasive in this government. A good deal of ministerial time is spent on relationship management. It is noticeable how much ministers view the world through personal relationships. The way they think about government tends to be framed by whom they get on with as well as by structures or processes.
Given that the role of a minister is so varied and demanding, there is no single understanding of what an effective minister is. The public wants honest ministers who can live up to their promises, the Whip wants ministers who can handle Parliament and get their Bills through smoothly, the Prime Minister wants loyal ministers who will not cause embarrassment, the policy official wants decisive ministers who understand analysis and the campaigner wants ministers who genuinely listen to a range of views and can secure resources for their issue. Different mixes of skills are needed for different ministerial roles. Our Prime Minister has appointed people to the front bench not only for their detailed knowledge of policy or fit with the team but more so because he knows them and trusts their judgement. Effective ministers need the political antennae and the resilience to be able to make tough decisions, quickly. It might seem a contrast to ‘decisiveness’, but our ministers are willing to be challenged, to listen and to work constructively with their officials, fellow ministers and external stakeholders.
Despite a few setbacks, this administration, sprouted from a young and energetic labour movement, will be heading for the general elections next year in top gear and, once they are over, will cruise full speed ahead. It is no exaggeration that we will be the envy of the world.