RANGOON — Ministries have been directed to prepare for the transfer of power to a new government at the end of March, officials have told The Irrawaddy.
Department heads in each of the country’s 31 ministries have received instructions on how to prepare for the political transition in the remaining months of President Thein Sein’s administration.
Tint Swe, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information, said that the Union government met with secretaries and other senior civil servants on Nov. 30, giving them orders to collect data on ministry-owned property portfolios, what they have achieved over the life of the current government, what projects they had failed to implement and the ministry’s tentative plans for the next five years, as well as a number of other directives.
He added that they will compile all of those data into the books to hand over.
“Since we have four months for the preparations [until March], we can prepare very well and so there will not have any difficulties in transition,” he said.
President Thein Sein said on Saturday that his government had moved to ensure that all government organizations and staff were equipped for the transition in accordance with their legal requirements.
“We have heard that there are concerns about the formation of a new government and the transition,” he said, in a message carried by state-run newspapers over the weekend. “It is ordinary to have such concerns in countries on the path of democratic reforms. So, I have been working to finish this smooth transition successfully.”
The term of Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, which emerged from a 2010 poll plagued by credible accusations of electoral fraud, will end in March. The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won around 80 percent of the seats contested in last month’s general election, decisively beating Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
When the outgoing administration announced the reintroduction of permanent secretaries for government ministries in April, political analysts criticized the move, claiming the USDP was attempting to strengthen its hold on the bureaucracy in the event of an NLD win. Many of those chosen to occupy the new posts were former military officers.
Presidential spokesman and Information Minister Ye Htut attempted to quell those fears at a Naypyidaw press conference on Dec. 2, immediately following a meeting between Thein Sein and Suu Kyi at the Presidential Palace. He told reporters that the appointments had been made to smooth over any post-election political transition, a claim backed by his ministry counterpart Tint Swe.
“The government will change in five years,” Tint Swe told The Irrawaddy. “But we permanent secretaries will be the ones who will explain all the objectives and policies of the ministries, what they have done in recent years, and their future plans, to the next government. But for the policies, there may be changes according to the next government’s priorities.”
Thaung Lwin, the information director from the Ministry of Rail Transportation, said on Friday that the directives for each of the ministry’s departments were released on Wednesday, two days after the meeting between the permanent secretaries and the Union government. He said that departments were now collecting data on policies, procedures, organizational structures, budgets, audit reports and other information for the next government.
“We are preparing carefully so we are not accused of being reckless,” he said. “We are working to be able to look back all of the ministry’s works in the last five years to inform the next government.”