Myanmar downsizes government, axes ministries

During a Parliament sitting on Thursday (Mar 17), Myanmar’s Speaker of Parliament said the nation will have 21 ministries and 18 ministers, down from 36 ministries currently.

NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar’s Speaker of Parliament announced on Thursday (Mar 17) that the nation will have 21 ministries and 18 ministers, down from 36 ministries currently.

During a Parliament sitting which lasted less than 15 minutes, the Speaker Mann Win Khaing Than added that some ministries will be merged. These include the Ministry for Electricity and Energy, as well as Culture and Religious Affairs. While some ministries were axed, new ones – such as for Ethnic Affairs, and Resources and Environmental Conservation – were formed.

Under the current system, there are separate ministries for electric power and energy, while rail transport is run separately from the transportation ministry.

Three key ministries – those of home affairs, border affairs and defence – will still be run by the army.

While rank and file civil servants are not expected to lose their jobs, the ministries themselves will be trimmed down in the new plan, which has one minister each for energy, transport, agriculture and the president’s office.

The ministry of information will also remain.

The plan also combines the powerful ministry of mines into a broader natural resources and environment portfolio.

This will remain a crucial position in the nation, whose rich natural resources are largely concentrated in ethnic minority areas where local people see little sign of the billions of dollars in revenue they produce. A particular challenge may be Myanmar’s massive jade industry in conflict-torn Kachin state.

The merging of the agriculture and irrigation ministry with fisheries and livestock has also received support.

“Agriculture for example, to get better and competitive industry in the market, we really need mechanisation, we really need to improve our quality and we really need to improve the training and facilitation,” said Moe Myint Kyaw, secretary-general of Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.”So if we really can combine with synergy and integrated policy, this industry can be easily improved.”

Observers have said the new list of ministries is reasonable and logical, but some told Channel NewsAsia they were disappointed that the new government did not create a new ministry to oversee women and youth issues.

An observer also expressed concern that the ministries will be overburdened as each of them take on a larger portfolio.

Said Saw Kapi, director of The Salween Institute for Public Policy: “Merging ministries can create more confusion too… it’s possible to end up having a very convoluted ministry. Especially if you merge ministries, you’re unwilling to follow tough decisions to eliminate positions or eliminate processes that are repetitive. I think there are tough decisions to be made.”

In addition, National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi announced that she will chair an eight-member Parliamentary Development Committee.

The ministry plans will be debated by lawmakers on Friday, Mann Win Khaing Than said. They will be implemented after Htin Kyaw is sworn in as president on Mar 30.

The NLD, which scored a landslide win in last November’s elections, had previously said it wants to reduce the current 36 ministries to about 20. NLD has also vowed to run a more inclusive administration open to Myanmar’s ethnic minorities.

 

Source: Channel News Asia

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