Provinces drop ministries in austerity moveGandaki government leads the way by cutting the number of ministries from 12 to seven.
As the second five-year term of the provinces kicks off, newly-elected chief ministers of various provinces have collectively acted to make the provinces more viable and less financially burdensome.
They did so by deciding to cut down the number of ministries. Experts have welcomed the move, saying it would be of great help in streamlining the provincial governments’ operations.
The Gandaki Province government on Monday decided to reduce the number of ministries to seven from the earlier 12. As soon as he assumed office, Chief Minister Khagaraj Adhikari had announced a reduction in the cabinet’s size.
Two weeks ago, the first cabinet meeting of Province 1 had decided to reduce the number of ministries from 13 to nine. Likewise, the Lumbini province government’s first Cabinet meeting on January 12 also decided to reduce one ministry in the province.
The incumbent federal government appears to be supportive of these initiatives.
“People have been complaining that the administrative expenses of provinces have shot up and fiscal good governance has not been maintained due to large provincial structures,” Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said at a Monday morning meeting with Sudurpaschim Chief Minister Rajendra Singh Rawal, provincial ministers and provincial assembly members. “That’s why, they [provincial governments] should be transparent and economical.”
According to Dahal, CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli and other leaders also agree on the need to enhance the efficiency of provincial governments and maintain financial transparency. “We have also decided to appoint only 10 percent of the total provincial lawmakers as ministers,” Dahal said.
Khim Lal Devkota, coordinator of the Federalism Implementation Study and Monitoring Committee formed last year by the National Assembly, said he welcomes the provincial governments’ decision. “Reducing the number of ministries was a much-needed step,” he said.
“Administrative costs have shot up thanks to the large sizes of provincial governments,” stated a report submitted by the committee to National Assembly chair Ganesh Timilsina on November 3. “And because of that, the public's trust in federalism decreased. So, at the least, there should be five provincial ministers while at the most, only 10 percent of the total provincial assembly members should be ministers.”
Devkota added that there is no need for such a large number of ministries in provinces.
“The broader public as well as experts have been rather critical of federalism, and the increment in the number of ministries only made things worse,” Devkota told the Post. “Reducing the ministries will have no negative impact on service delivery.”
In the meantime, other provinces are also working to reduce the number of ministries.
Bagmati Province Chief Minister Shalikram Jammkattel has formed a five-member study panel to do so in his province. He has already announced to limit the number between nine and 11. Currently, the province has 14 ministries.
Rajesh Gautam, a political historian, also said he welcomes the provinces’ decision, citing Nepal’s poor economic condition and limited resources.
Splitting the provincial ministries just to save the government and accommodate a handful of politicians was common in the past five years. There was an ugly competition to appoint more ministers in the provinces.
Maoist Centre leader Kul Prasad KC, upon assuming office as the chief minister of Lumbini, decided to increase the number of ministries to 13. During the tenure of Bagmati Chief Minister Rajendra Pandey, the number of ministries was increased from eight to 14. Back in April 2021, the then chief minister of the Gandaki Province Prithvi Subba Gurung had split ministries to accommodate Rajiv Gurung aka Deepak Manange and others, taking the number of ministries to eight.
Other provinces had done the same.
The provinces’ budget expenditure and financial burdens increased significantly due to the large size of provincial governments.
Nepal’s constitution allows up to 20 percent of provincial assembly lawmakers to be made provincial ministers.
Observers say a large number of ministries only encouraged the trend of bargaining for power.
“Leaders taking up ministries in the provinces ignored delivery, which hampered the country’s development,” Gautam, the political historian, said. “The ministries were turned into no more than bargaining chips for power.”