AFTER nine years in office Gilbert Licudi stepped down as a minister but will remain in parliament as a backbencher.
The surprise announcement was made this morning just as Gibraltar has a surge of COVID-19 cases.
There are currently 37 active cases of the virus in Gibraltar, all but one being residents.
“This has not been an easy decision to take,” said Licudi about his desire to step down as a minister, which is effective today.
“The experience of the last few months with COVID-19 has led me to re-evaluate my position and to change my outlook and my priorities.
“I have taken the view that it is now time for me to move on.
“I will return to private practice as a lawyer.”
Licudi, who was re-elected to government last December wishes, however to remain in parliament as a backbencher.
This will mean he will not sit on the government bench but will still be able to vote and take part in discussions.
The Chief Minister has denied the need for a by-election and said there was no discord between them.
Licudi has been the driver of projects like the small-boats marina, new schools and the university.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said it was ‘absolutely right’ that Licudi should step down ‘to put his family first’.
“The pandemic has touched all our lives in different ways,” said Picardo.
“But we regard this as a blow to the Government because he is not a person who can easily be replaced in the Executive.
“I know, however, that he will continue to be there for us in Parliament.”
The departure means that his different responsibilites will now be spread out among the remaining government ministers.
John Cortes will take over education, which he had before as well as the university.
Vijay Daryanani will bow work on all the transport areas, taking on the port, air travel and the terminal, while Albert Isola gets public utilities
Paul Balban will take over responsibility for Employment, Social Security,
the Industrial Tribunal and Health and Safety.
Elderly Residential Services, the Care Agency, drugs, rehabilitation and Fire Services will move to Samantha Sacramento.
The Chief Minister said there could be more changes ‘in a few weeks’ when the government gears up for autumn.