Musical chairs

  • Using Cabinet seats as political currency is unethical and an administrative burden

Sep 13, 2017-Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has once again increased the size of his Cabinet. With the induction of three ministers and one state minister, the size of the Council of Ministers now stands at a monstrous 54. 

Deuba now has three Deputy Prime Ministers, 26 cabinet ministers and 24 state ministers. This stands as a record for most ministers inducted to Cabinet by a government in Nepal. The PM has recently been slammed for breaking the previous record of 49 ministers held by the Baburam Bhattarai-led government in 2011. Now, adding four more ministers, Deuba has set an even higher record, and has said that the Cabinet may expand even further, as “many are still vying for ministerial berths”. Surely an attempt at maintaining his hold on power, Deuba’s trend of conferring ministerial seats for support is worrisome and cannot be allowed to continue. Ministers draw a salary of Rs60,970 and this figure does not even include other benefits, such as, a house to live in (or up to Rs50,000 to cover rent), security details, transportation and communication stipends. Excluding stipends and security, it costs the state around Rs14 million each month—Rs168 million per year—to support our PM, DPMs, ministers and state ministers; this in a country whose per capita GDP is around Rs80,000 a year. It is not feasible that a poor country whose infrastructure and rural development is supported through foreign donor money and foreign lending spend so much on its ministers.

With polls just around the corner, Deuba’s decision to add to the Cabinet is a clear violation of the election code of conduct. Our deal making PM has surely used this opportunity to strengthen his party’s ties with coalition partners, and strengthen his own position within the grand old party. Indeed, even the Election Commission spoke out on the issue immediately after the new appointments were announced. There are also infrastructural difficulties to contend with. Buildings within Singha Durbar sustained considerable damage after the earthquake and the 30 ministries are currently hard put to find sufficient space within the premises, even without the further expansion of Cabinet. 

Furthermore, while there is no current prescribed limit to the number of Cabinet members, Article 76 of the Constitution, prohibiting a Cabinet with more than 25 members will come into effect after the upcoming federal elections. With only 25 positions to spare, allocating ministerial positions in a coalition government will present considerable issues, especially considering this current trend of awarding ministerial positions to MPs who back the coalition.

Giving ministerial positions to politicians “who wish to have experience”, as was reported earlier is just plain wrong. The PM and government should not use Cabinet positions as political currency. Not only is this unethical, it is also impractical and presents a huge monetary and administrative burden for the state.

Published: 13-09-2017 07:48

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