Burma’s President-elect Htin Kyaw told parliament on Monday that a proposal he put forward last week to reorganise the country’s administrative structure would save money for use in underfunded sectors.
Htin Kyaw clarified his plan in his first address to parliament, where members of the lower and upper houses had gathered.
The plan, which was approved today, would reduce the number of ministries from 36 to 21. Only four ministries (the ministries of sports, cooperatives, science and technology and rail transportation) are to be abolished outright, while others would be merged.
Htin Kyaw said the move by the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, would save 5 billion kyat (US$4,124,450) in salaries over the next five years.
“We can use the 5 billion kyat that will be saved by reducing the number of ministries and ministers to improve our country’s education, health and rural development sectors,” said the newly-elected president.
In his speech, Htin Kyaw also addressed the concerns of public servants worried about job losses.
“I have heard that civil servants are concerned about losing their jobs as a result of the cuts. The mergers will mean fewer ministries and ministers, but the job security of civil servants can be ensured by reassigning them appropriately to other ministries,” he said.
“Only by cutting public expenditures as much as possible will our country be able to get off the list of the world’s least developed nations.”
Suu Kyi led the NLD to a historic landslide election win in November, but a constitution drafted by the former junta bars her from the top office because her two children and her late husband do not have Burmese citizenship.
Although Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the top job by virtue of her foreign family members, the Nobel laureate has indicated she will ‘‘be above the president”, effectively making Htin Kyaw her proxy.
The party has not clarified how such an arrangement would be implemented, fueling speculation about possible positions Suu Kyi might assume after the government takes office on 1 April.
Burma’s powerful military holds a quarter of parliamentary seats and the constitutional right to nominate one of the three presidential candidates. Its candidate, retired general Myint Swe, last week became the country’s first vice president.
Relations between the armed forces and Suu Kyi will define the success of Burma’s most significant break from military rule since the army seized power in 1962.