Parliament Approves President-Elect’s Proposal to Downsize Ministries

By Tin Htet Paing 21 March 2016

RANGOON — In a proposal supported by nearly 95 percent of lawmakers on Monday, Burma’s President-elect Htin Kyaw stressed the importance of downsizing the Parliament-approved list of government ministries.

Leading his first legislative discussion, Htin Kyaw was given the stage to explain a plan he submitted on March 17 suggesting a reduction of the executive cabinet from 36 ministries to 21. These ministries would be led by 18 ministers approved by the Parliament and three ministers appointed by the military. Htin Kyaw is expected to put forward nominees for ministerial positions on Tuesday.

Under his proposal, 10 existing ministries would remain unchanged. Meanwhile, some would be subsumed into others, with 10 ministries merging into five. Htin Kyaw also proposed a new ministry to cover ethnic affairs.

He addressed concerns that the reduction of government ministries would leave current staff jobless, promising that they will be able to continue their work as long as it is done in accordance with the law.

“We will create job security [for existing staff] by transferring them to relevant offices,” Htin Kyaw explained.

He also said that the proposed eliminations and mergers would establish a more efficient cabinet, and that capacity building trainings were planned for staff.

“The downsizing of the cabinet will save five billion kyats (more than US$4.1 million) in salaries…over the next five years,” he explained to the lawmakers. “That money can be used for education, health and the rural development of the country.”

A total of 647 lawmakers were present at Monday’s session, of which 611 voted in favor of reducing the number of ministries, while three MPs were opposed to the idea and 22 abstained from voting. Similarly, 601 lawmakers voted to keep the number of non-military ministers at 18, while 22 lawmakers opposed it and 14 abstained.

After the vote, Union Parliament Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than declared that the proposals had been approved.