So, the Parliamentary prize-giving is done and all the good children have gotten their prizes, ie Ministries. Here’s the full list, as far as I could figure it out. My calculation is that a full 40% of our MPs hold some sort of Ministry (89/225). If you join the government you get a Ministry basically, unless you’re a total dunce.
The September 2015 Cabinet
As far as I can figure, using literally all of my college education, there are… Oh God, literally, while I was typing this they added new Deputy Ministers. Now, by my count alone, there are 90 Ministers in the Cabinet for the 15th Parliament (8th Republican, officially) – including the President and Prime Minister.
There are 45 Cabinet Ministers, 19 State Ministers and 24 Deputy Ministers. This is obviously a fluid mess so please correct.
The Party Breakdown
This is what it looks like in terms of party breakdown, insomuch as parties exist anymore. There are 55 UNF seats vs 35 UPFA, but most of the UPFA chaps are State or Deputy Ministers.
The Seniority Breakdown
This is what it looks like in terms of seniority.
Finally, this is what it looks like when you sit them all down. 89 out of 225 MPs are some sort of Minister (excluding the President). That’s 40% (!!!!!).
What Is What?
What is a Cabinet Minister vs a State Minister vs a Deputy? I don’t really know, but I think they get different levels of perks. Perks meaning cars, security guards, more staff and, of course, a title.
Technically the Cabinet itself is only Cabinet Ministers (47 of them), but who are we kidding. People also use the term Cabinet to refer to the whole lot, as I do.
WTF, and Why?
It’s fundamentally gross, that a country this size has more Ministers than, say, China (20). On another level, however, this is almost a necessary result of A) making legislators executives and B) paying them badly.
Running the country is important and these guys deal with a lot of money, but they’re paid around Rs. 100,000 with fuel allowance and all. Which is farcical, that’s not at all what a similar private sector job would pay. I think we need to emulate Singapore and pay competitive government salaries and then prosecute the fuck out of people who are still corrupt. The system as it is now basically forces MPs to be corrupt because there’s no way they can support themselves let alone deal with all the weddings and funerals they’re supposed to attend.
The way we deal with this now is by giving way too many people Ministries. This gives them a discretionary budget, more staff, a nicer office, more cars, etc. Many of the Ministries don’t actually have that many responsibilities, but the perks make it worthwhile.
The danger of mixing up compensation and actual executive functions is, however, that the duties of the ministry actually get messed up. For example, we seem to make up new ministries all the time. So what do those Ministries do? What staff falls under their purview? What happens to institutions and people when a Ministry disappears? All of this makes it harder to get stuff done for average people, especially since a lot of the ministries have overlapping functions. Add to this the fact that many Ministers treat their subject like a domain to loot and you have a problem.
Another problem is that Ministry Secretaries – the theoretically non-political actors who do the actual work – don’t persist through government changes. In India they do, which means those organizations don’t get lurched around, and which means that operations are run by people with training in civil service. Here the secretaries are re-appointed when the Minister changes, and sometimes from outside. So you get a very ad hoc, dysfunctional system.
In short, Sri Lanka’s cabinet is actually quite sane within an insane system. We have to pay our Parliamentarians more as the first step, and only then can we start reducing the size of cabinet. If that’s even possible. Once you increase the size of cabinet it’s very hard to get down. One option is to make everyone a State or Deputy Minister, but then administration gets nuts.
Personally, I think we should get rid of the Provincial Councils, fix the electoral system so that MPs represent coherent districts, and then have them represent that district like they’re supposed to. But who knows. Right now it’s just a hideous, expensive and inefficient mess.