Is a Cabinet Reshuffle on the Horizon in Burma?

By Nyein Nyein 24 June 2014

RANGOON — After Burma’s religious affairs minister was fired last week, a cabinet reshuffle will likely follow soon, according to an official close to the president.
“I heard there will be some cabinet reshuffle soon,” the source said, requesting anonymity.

President Office’s director Zaw Htay declined to comment on Tuesday about the possibility of a shakeup.

“Some union ministers will be allowed to resign from the cabinet,” the 7day Daily newspaper reported on Sunday, quoting another source close to the government who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Politicians and political researchers said it was difficult to guess whether President Thein Sein might reshuffle his cabinet because Burma “lacks indicators” to evaluate the performance of ministries.

“If he reshuffles, it would be to improve his cabinet’s performance,” said Aung Thu Nyein, a political researcher at the Myanmar Development Resource Institute, noting that Thein Sein’s term ends in 2015.

Aung Thu Nyein said changes to the cabinet could also signal a push to consolidate power.

In other countries, public opinion polls or NGO guidelines help gauge the performance of ministries, “but in Burma there are no such indicators,” he said.

Lower House lawmaker Hla Swe said that over the past three years, some ministries have been effective and others have been ineffective. “But the views of the president, the public and the Hluttaw [Parliament] are different, so it depends on the views of each side,” he said.

“We parliamentarians assess the cabinet on the basis of the budget expense of each ministry and its performance,” he added. He noted improvements in the ministries of commerce and railway transport, while saying the ministry of mining has seen no change.

Khin Maung Swe, chairman of the National Democratic Force, a small political party, said he could not understand the government’s reasoning for appointing certain ministers and firing others.
“It’s not effective if the changes of ministers do not solve the corruption problem. Those who are most corrupt are still working in their posts, while those who are less corrupt are fired,” he said, referring to media reports that the former religious affairs minister, Hsan Hsint, is being investigated for allegedly misusing 10 million kyats (US$10,000) from ministry coffers.

President Thein Sein has reshuffled his cabinet twice since taking office in 2011. The first reshuffle came in August 2012 and the second in July 2013.