The Armenian Parliament approved today in the first reading the package of bills on making amendments to the law on the structure of the country’s government - the number of ministries will be cut from 17 to 12.
A total of 71 MPs voted in favor of the proposed package, whereas 40 others voted against - MPs from the Prosperous Armenia party and the Bright Armenia party.
The position of First Vice Prime Minister will be also liquidated, thus, the Armenian government will be comprised of two Vice PMs and 12 ministries.
According to the draft law, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures, the Ministry of Industry and High Technologies, the Economic Ministry and the Ministry of Finance will operate in Armenia.
The Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technologies, as well as the Ministry of Diaspora will be abolished.
According to the new law, the Ministry of Diaspora unites with the Prime Minister's office as the main commissioner for diaspora issues office.
The Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs will be merged with the Ministry of Education and Science under the general name the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport. The ministries of Agriculture, Economic Development and Investments will be merged into the Economic Ministry, and the Ministry of Energy Infrastructures will be part of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development.
The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology will be renamed the Ministry of Industry and High Technologies.
Former head of the Central Bank of Armenia Bagrat Asatryan, speaking with the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that the government was excessively overstaffed under Serzh Sargsyan. "I am convinced that having 17 ministries and 3 ministers is too much for a country like Armenia. This inefficient structure was approved by the Republicans when they wanted to create the Yerevan khanate: Sargsyan as a khan, and the rest are errand boys. The past years have shown that such a structure of the Cabinet did not contribute to economic growth or any solution of social, economic and other problems. The only thing that distinguished Armenia was the number of civil servants having personal drivers, which exceeded one thousand," he recalled.
"Ten ministries would be enough for Armenia. Sectoral ministries are not functional, they should be merged. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Diaspora are repetitive. An optimal structure is needed to manage the country, and it's just one of the first steps," Bagrat Asatryan expressed confidence.
"The same agriculture ministry has a lot of problems, which, in fact, linked to energy and water management. I think that the integration can help resolving such issues, which have not been solved yet. I’m not saying that the made decisions were perfect, but the principle itself is correct. We have structures in the ministries that still don’t know what they are doing," the former head of the Central Bank said.
Ex-mayor of Yerevan Vahagn Khachatryan, in turn, noted that the abolished Ministry of Energy did not perform de facto any functions. "Our energy system is almost 100% privatized, not counting nuclear power plants and high-voltage lines. The duties of regulating energy issues can be carried out without creating a ministry of energy. In my opinion, they should establish a separate infrastructure ministry, which would take over both functions of the Energy Ministry and other departments," he said, adding that the enlargement of ministries has its flaws.
"We would have two monster ministries: the Ministry of Territorial Administration and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Culture, Youth and Sport. I doubt that these departments will be effectively managed," Vahagn Khachatryan explained.
"If we talk about the Ministry of Agriculture, then yes, it gives 15% of GDP, 400 thousand people are engaged in the agricultural sector, but after the privatization of land in 1991, Armenia's agriculture has not been developed at all. We don’t have modern agricultural technologies, people are paid there less than the average salary in the country. That is, labor productivity is very low, and the Ministry of Agriculture can do nothing to fix it," the former mayor of Yerevan said.