Burmese President Thein Sein’s administration on Friday proposed shutting down a ministry which oversees industrial megaprojects and was created at the tail end of the previous military regime, saying it was irrelevant amid the reforms that are underway.
Thein Sein made the request to dissolve the Ministry of Myanmar Industrial Development in a letter to parliament following the announcement of his biggest cabinet reshuffle since taking office in March last year.
The ministry, created a month before the military junta that ruled Burma for decades stepped down, was never allocated a budget under Thein Sein’s new, nominally civilian government.
The ministry is headed by Thein Htay, a retired general who is also Minister of Border Affairs and served under the military junta as deputy minister of defense and chief of defense industries.
The industrial development ministry was one of several created at the end of the military regime that are no longer necessary under the new government, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party lawmaker Aye Maung said.
“The ministry asked for funds from parliament and the MPs didn’t agree to it because this ministry is unnecessary,” he said.
He explained that centrally planned industrial megaprojects the military regime had planned for the ministry to guide were no longer needed.
"When this ministry was established in 2011, the proposal mentioned megaprojects and foreign investment, international loans, et cetera, that would lead the development of Burma’s industrial sector,” Aye Maung said.
“We don't know the details of what the ministry did to reach these goals, but in our current situation, it is not feasible to carry out such megaprojects.”
Burma also has a Ministry of Industry, created in December 2011 in a merger between the Ministries of Industry No. 1 and No 2, that oversees industrial projects.
But any relevant functions of the Ministry of Myanmar Industrial Development could be absorbed by other ministries, Aye Maung said.
“There are too many ministries that are not necessary,” he said, adding that, for example, the Ministry of Science could be combined with the Ministry of Education.
“The Ministry of Cooperatives is something that exists only in socialist countries and so it’s also not necessary,” he said.
On Monday, Thein Sein switched up nine of 33 cabinet posts, including for the key finance, information, industry, national planning and economic development portfolios.
The changes replaced Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, seen as a stumbling block to media reforms, with Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi, the president's point-man in talks with pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Aye Maung suggested that appointing ministers from opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party would help in it’s the current transition period amid reforms and as foreign governments move toward removing sanctions imposed against the former military regime.
“Now there are a lot of vacancies for ministers. The NLD MPs should be appointed to those posts because it will help smooth the removal of sanctions,” he said.
Reported by Nyan Win Aung. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.