Myanmar parliament to decide Thursday on creation of two new ministries

The Union parliament session on November 20, 2017. Photo: MOI
The Union parliament session on November 20, 2017. Photo: MOI

Myanmar’s Union parliament has announced plans to debate the formation of two new ministries following a directive from President Htin Kyaw yesterday. The two proposed ministries are the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government and Ministry of International Cooperation. If created, they will bring the total number of Union-level ministries to 24.

The Ministry of the Office of the Union Government will serve as the coordinating body for all the agencies and ministries under the Office of the President, said Union Attorney General Htun Htun Oo during yesterday’s parliament session.

“The Union government performs numerous tasks, including the administration of the Union, planning and finance, the submission of bills, and others. In [creating the new ministry], we believe these tasks will be carried out more effectively once a single minister answers to the president regarding such tasks,” the attorney general said, adding that the staff of the new ministry will be drawn from the current staff of the Office of the Union Government.

The president has recommended current national security adviser Thaung Tun as the first minister of the Office of the Union Government.

Explaining the Ministry of International Cooperation, Htun Htun Oo told the parliament: “A ministry is urgently needed to cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in international affairs and to take responsibility for the president by assessing international affairs not only from the political point of view but also from an economic cooperation point of view.”

The staff of the new ministry would be taken from the International Organizations and Economic Department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If it is formed, the new minister for international cooperation would divide duties with Aung San Suu Kyi, who serves as minister for foreign affairs.

“The minister for foreign affairs will attend some international meetings, and the minister of international cooperation will attend some international meetings,” Htun Htun Oo said, adding that the two ministries will be housed in the same building.

At present, Myanmar’s Ministry of Planning and Finance handles matters pertaining to international organization. If created, the Ministry of International Cooperation would assume these duties.

“By doing so, international relations will be able to be carried out more conveniently,” according to the attorney general.

The president recommended current deputy minister for foreign affairs Kyaw Tin as the first minister for international cooperation.

After the attorney general’s presentation, Union parliament speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than invited lawmakers to sign up for to debate the creation of the two new ministries.

Some parliamentarians have already voiced opposition to the move. Myanmar Times quoted MP Thaung Aye, a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, as saying: “I have no idea what they are doing or with what intentions. Actually, there are many more important things to do in the country. We don’t need more ministries and departments.”

After the NLD won the 2015 general election, party leader Aung San Suu Kyi vowed to reduce the number of ministries in an effort to cut expenditures. In March 2016, her government cut the number from 36 to 21. Two months later, President Htin Kyaw proposed the creation of a ministry for the Office of the State Counsellor, which passed without opposition, bringing the total to 22.

The Union parliament will vote on the creation of the two additional ministries on Thursday.

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