How to innovate the Cabinet of Ministers

By Eranda Ginige- Fellow Citizen of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

(This proposal was first published on 18 November 2019. Republishing with minor edits.)

There are two main phases when making the Cabinet of Ministers. Firstly, different ministries must be identified. Secondly, the process by which the ministers are appointed to each ministry must be designed and executed. I think this is “yet another” good time to discuss this important topic.

There are 30 ministries in the current government. It is a complicated, convoluted, unimaginative list which has been modified from time to time based on the political needs of the situation, mostly to win opposition MPs by adding and mixing weird portfolios. Therefore it needs to be reimagined.

Phase 1 – Identifying the Ministries

I would like to propose the following 22 ministries. Some of them are traditional (e.g. Ministry of Defence, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Sports etc.). Some of them have combined closely-related areas assuming it will improve efficiencies (e.g. Ministry of Cities, Villages, Roads, Buildings and Houses, Ministry of Lifelong Education and Skills Development). 

I’ve tried to keep them interdependent in order to create synergy as well as checks-and-balances. I’ve described the purpose of these ministries to suit the 21st century needs and opportunities. Some ministries which I thought are irrelevant have been removed altogether.

This is a citizen’s proposal. Please send me your innovative and practical ideas to improve it further. I have kept space for three more ministries, as I believe the Cabinet should be confined to 25 ministries. For the ease of execution, ministries such as the Ministry of Cities, Villages, Roads, Buildings and Houses may have more than one Deputy Minister appointed with task delegation. 

Please see the table below:

1. Ministry of Defence

ආරක්ෂක අමාත්‍යංශය

Controlling all external and internal security attacks against the Republic; assuring total and long-term safety and protection of all citizens and all natural and man-made resources of the Republic.
2. Ministry of Economic Development, Finance and Investments

ආර්ථික සංවර්ධන, මුදල් සහ ආයෝජන අමාත්‍යංශය

Planning and managing the short term, mid-term and long-term economic development of the Republic; invest in the growth of the economy; Financial control of the Republic.
3. Ministry of Lifelong Education and Skills Development
යාවජීව අධ්‍යාපන සහ කුසලතා සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය
Plan, develop and sustainably manage preschools, schools, universities, vocational skills education centres and programmes for every citizen of the Republic to have access to lifelong education and skills development; develop and manage the human resources needed including educators and technology.
4. Ministry of Sustainable Food Production

තිරසාර ආහාර නිෂ්පාදන අමාත්‍යංශය

Grow and manage all agriculture industries including livestock in order to make all citizens of the Republic sustainable and self-sufficient in food; export extra foods with added-value to earn foreign revenue (including tea, coconut and sugarcane).
5. Ministry of Enterprise Development
ව්‍යවසාය සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය
Develop all small, medium and large-scale industries other than agriculture and livestock; produce innovative products and services for domestic use and to export (including tourism and cooperatives).
6. Ministry of Cities, Villages, Roads, Buildings and Housing Development
නගර, ගම්මාන, මාර්ග, ගොඩනැගිලි සහ නිවාස සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය 
Plan, develop and maintain cities and villages of the Republic; design, build and maintain roads to connect cities and villages; plan, build and maintain small and large buildings and houses.
7. Ministry of Internal Affairs
අභ්‍යන්තර කටයුතු අමාත්‍යංශය
Establish and continue all internal affairs, law and order and connectivity between all citizens of the Republic.
8. Ministry of Health and Nutrition Development
සෞඛ්‍ය සහ පෝෂණ සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය
Identify and fulfil all health and nutrition needs of the citizens of the Republic (including Indigenous, Ayurveda and Western medicine and hospitals)
9. Ministry of Child Safety
ළමා ආරක්ෂණ අමාත්‍යංශය
Protect all children of the Republic from all harm and cruelty.
10. Ministry of Transportation Services Development
ප්‍රවාහන සේවා සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය
Plan, build and manage all internal and external transportation systems; develop transportation systems to meet future needs (including aviation and naval).
11. Ministry of Energy Development
බලශක්ති සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය
Continuously fulfil the energy needs of the Republic; make the Republic powered by 80% renewable energy by the year 2035.
12. Ministry of Environmental Protection and Development
පරිසර ආරක්ෂණ සහ සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය
Protect all and entire environmental systems (including wildlife and ocean); prevent environmental pollution; develop environmental resources.
13. Ministry of Protecting and Fostering Buddha Shasana
බුද්ධ ශාසනය සුරක්ෂිත කොට පෝෂණය කිරීමේ අමාත්‍යංශය
Buddha Shasana is not the property of one nationality. It is a universal asset for all of humankind. Therefore protect and promote Buddha Shasana for future generations.
14. Ministry of Freedoms, Rights, Duties
නන් වැදෑරුම් නිදහස, අයිතීන් සහ යුතුකම් පිලිබඳ අමාත්‍යංශය
Protect and promote the freedoms (including the religious freedoms), rights and duties of all citizens in the Republic.
15. Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Arts
සංස්කෘතික කටයුතු සහ කලාවන් පිලිබඳ අමාත්‍යංශය
Promote the cultural diversity of the Republic; develop cultural understanding; promote the Arts.
16. Ministry of Disaster Prevention and Management
ආපදා වැළැක්වීම සහ කළමනාකරණ අමාත්‍යංශය
Prevent or mitigate the impact of the near and far future natural and man-made disasters; manage disasters as and when they occur.
17. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
විදේශ කටයුතු අමාත්‍යංශය
Establish and continue non-aligned, friendly and entrepreneurial relations between the Republic and foreign states (including foreign employment)
18. Ministry of Minerals and Water Resources Development

ඛනිජ සහ ජල සම්පත් සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය

Survey all minerals and water resources of the Republic; manage the use of all minerals and water resources sustainably so that our future generations can also enjoy them; export with added-value to earn foreign revenue.
19. Ministry of Information and Communications Services
තොරතුරු සහ සන්නිවේදන සේවා අමාත්‍යංශය
Establish and continue all print, electronic and social media services of the Republic; establish and continue all communications services of the Republic (including telephone, postal)
20. Ministry of Archaeology
පුරාවිද්‍යා අමාත්‍යංශය
Conserve and promote all archaeological sites, antiques and historical information of the Republic.
21. Ministry of Sports Development
ක්‍රීඩා සංවර්ධන අමාත්‍යංශය
Plan and develop all sports in the Republic.

 

22. Ministry of Innovation, Integration and Monitoring
නව්‍යකරණ, සම්බන්ධීකරණ සහ අධීක්ෂණ අමාත්‍යංශය
Facilitate innovation in all ministries and state institutions, integration management between ministries; monitor progress against plans and periodic reporting. (I propose this ministry to be under the prime minister)
23. If needed
24. If needed
25. If needed

We then have to appoint ministers to the different ministries. What has been happening thus far is an unnecessary tug of war between the President and the Prime Minister, creating a dog fight between the henchmen of theirs, and finally, the ministries distributed among the same corrupt bunch. It’s not scientific. It’s not fair. It’s certainly not Democratic.

Part 2 – Appointing the Cabinet of Ministers

Actually, there is a simple, mature and democratic process to do this.

a) Announce the vacancies for ministerial and deputy ministerial posts

After identifying the ministries (above), the vacancies for ministerial and deputy ministerial posts must be published openly. Cabinet of Ministers is one of the three parts of the “Executive” of the Republic. What it means is the Ministers’ role is to “execute” the decisions (laws) made by the legislature. Holding both executive powers (as ministers) AND legislative powers (as MPs) is a violation of the basic principle of the separation of powers and checks-and-balances. This critical violation must be corrected in the next constitutional reforms. Anyway, the point is ministers should be “executives” i.e. “doers”.

b) Members of parliament apply

Now any member of parliament may apply to any one-or-more (upper limit needs to be decided) ministerial and/or deputy ministerial posts. They should submit a formal application with their educational qualifications, professional experiences, previous service record, and their ideas to execute the relevant ministry’s role. All this information must be openly published on the parliament‘s official website and on all mass media for public knowledge and discussion.

c) Citizens discussion and parliamentary debate

Then the citizens must be given a reasonable time to discuss the suitability of the applicants. It will mostly happen on social media and on mass media. Then there may be a parliamentary debate on the suitability of the applicants. All this can be open to the public. Discussion and debate is the first and most important stage of Democracy. Knowing that their faults will be divulged, some corrupt members of parliament will automatically refrain from applying.

d) Voting in the parliament

Then the MPs will vote on the short-listed applicants in the parliament for different ministerial and deputy ministerial posts. In doing so the MPs must follow the citizens’ mandates and responsibly use the “legislative power” i.e. the “decision-making power” of the citizens delegated to them temporarily. This may or may not be a secret vote. 

e) Appointing the ministers

The applicants who receive the highest number of votes for the respective ministerial and deputy ministerial posts will be appointed accordingly by the president.

f) Appointing the ministers

Finally, the ministers may vote and appoint one of them as their Prime Minister. Alternatively, the Prime Minister may be appointed first through the same above process.

This is the basic democratic process which must be followed for all decision making in the Republic. Appointing ministers or any senior public servant should follow this fair, open and transparent process. Therefore there is no need for any Independent Commissions to make appointments.

Members of parliament are the citizens’ representatives. They are “elected” by the citizens. Therefore all decision making including appointments must be done by the citizens’ representatives and NOT by some corrupt henchmen and so-called experts in those undemocratic commissions who are not elected by the citizens to start with.

I hope that the Cabinet of Ministers which will be formed after the parliamentary election will be appointed this way.

Please send in your ideas for improvement to eranda.ginige@gmail.com 

Feel free to share widely for open discussion.