The cabinet portfolios for construction and municipal development departments had been held by former Chief Minister U Min Min Oo, whose resignation in late February left all three positions empty. U Min Min Oo’s replacement, Dr. Aye Zan was only nominated as Chief Minister and does not plan to take either portfolio, which were combined under his predecessor.
Speaking Saturday at his office in the Mon State’s Mawlamyine Capital, formerly Moulmein, Dr. Aye Zan said that the ultimate decision regarding the two positions would normally be made by the President, U Htin Kyaw.U Htin Kyaw nominated Dr. Aye Zan to the position of Chief Minister on March 1 but gave no instruction regarding the two other posts, creating some confusion over authority.
Further complicating matters are party policies meant to prevent cabinets from bloating. Dr. Aye Zan and U Htin Kyaw both belong to the National League for Democracy (NLD), the longtime opposition party which now controls the Union and Mon State governments.
“According to NLD’s policy, each state or region can only have seven ministers in its cabinet. We already have 5 ministers plus a Minister of Security and Border Affairs. With my ascension to Chief Minister, we are brought to seven and therefore have no plans to expand the cabinet further,” said the New Minister.
Ministers of Ethnic Affairs, of which Mon State has three, are exempted from the policy.
In the absence of direction from the Union President, Dr. Aye Zan submitted a plan to the Mon State Hluttaw (Parliament), which would split the two portfolios between cabinet members, thereby maintaining the same number of ministers. The Hluttaw accepted but did not confirm the Chief Minister’s plan, saying that he first needs to put it before the cabinet.
“We have to compare the options that we have right now. The first is to maintain the current cabinet and save about 400 lakhs (about $29,500). The second is to waste large amounts of public funds on two extra ministers. So we believe that there should be no new ministers,” said U Tun Min Aung, the NLD state representative from Paung Township.
Under the Chief Minister’s plan Min Htin Aung Han, currently the Minister of Electrical Power, Energy and Industry, would take the Municipal Development portfolio, and U Wonna Kyaw would add construction to his portfolio of Planning, Finance and Immigration. The plan will be discussed at the upcoming cabinet meeting.