Myanmar’s new Parliament voted on Monday to reduce the number of government ministries, with President-elect Htin Kyaw assuring lawmakers that the civil servants will not lose their jobs and that the nation will save $4 million by getting rid of 15 ministers.
The 611-3 vote by a joint session of Parliament was the first legislative act by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, which came to power after a decades-long struggle for democracy followed by a historic landslide victory in the Nov 8 general election.
In his first speech to Parliament since having his nomination confirmed last week, Htin Kyaw, who will formally take office on April 1, said that currently “a lot of different ministries scattered around” are doing duplicate work and that he intends to combine them so their number will come down from 36 to 21.
He said the government would save 5 billion kyats ($4 million) during its five-year term, and would use that money for “education and other better issues”.
“I have no intention of reducing the number of civil servants,” he said. “By reducing the ministries, we will reduce unnecessary expenses and eliminate ministers’ salaries.”
Reuters reported on Monday Suu Kyi is unlikely to take a formal position in the incoming government of her National League for Democracy (NLD), quoting a senior official. She will control the administration through her position as party leader, it has emerged.
“Taking positions is not that important any more… In the United States there are many famous lawmakers in the parliament who are very influential, but they don’t take any position in the cabinet,” Zaw Myint Maung, the NLD’s spokesman and one of its leaders, told Reuters late on Sunday.
Will Suu Kyi turn out to be the Sonia Gandhi of Myanmar? “It’s the same here. She will lead the party, so she will lead the government formed by that party,” said Zaw Myint Maung, in the most detailed remarks from the NLD so far on how Suu Kyi plans to wield power. Other top-level NLD politicians, including Win Htein, her confidant, have likened Suu Kyi’s role to that of Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. As leader of the Congress party, she dominated the government of Prime Minister Mahmohan Singh before it fell from power in 2014, but held no ministerial position.