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Kyrgyzstan to downsize government
Effort to reduce spending, improve efficiency
By Asker Sultanov
BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan’s new government has proposed a reduction in the number of ministries, departments and employees in an effort to slash the state budget by more than 1 billion KGS (US $213m).
In early January, Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov presented the Cabinet of Ministers with a reform plan, developed by an Economic and Anti-Monopoly Policy Ministry-headed commission that surveyed the functions of every Kyrgyz government agency.
To reduce costs, the new government plans to eliminate four state agencies, Babanov said.
“We are now looking into ... dealing with the efficiency of government agencies,” he said. “We’re emphasising optimising government functions and doing away with over-lapping functions in the state agencies.”
Cuts will equal about 18% of personnel
The Kyrgyz government has 18,000 employees.
The executive branch will see a significant reduction, with the number of state bodies shrinking from 20 to 14 and the number of employees falling by 3,200.
That includes halving the Financial Police to about 200 employees, he said. In order to ensure professionalism in that agency, Deputy PM Dzhoomart Otorbayev will chair a commission to select personnel and all employees will undergo polygraphs.
Babanov also proposed reducing expenditures on items like vehicles. The total proposed reduction amounts to 40% or 1,200 of the ministries’ vehicles.
The new government, besides ministries, will include five state agencies and nine state services.
The agencies will include Geology and Mineral Resources, Construction and Regional Development, Environment and Forestry, Communications, and Physical Culture and Sports, Economy and Anti-Monopoly Regulation Minister Temir Sariyev said.
The state services, if the plan is approved, would be Corrections (penal), Tax, Customs, Financial Market Regulation and Supervision, Intellectual Property and Innovation, Drug Control, Registration, Financial Intelligence and Financial Police Services, Sariyev added.
“In addition, two new inspectorates are being formed: Food, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Safety and Ecological and Technical Safety,” Sariyev said.
Restructuring must be purposeful, observer says
Scaling back the government is a must, Nurdin Duishenbekov of the Kyrgyzstan Development Programme, an NGO, said.
“The state administrative structure is ... obsolete,” he said. “Its obsolescence and inefficiency are precisely the source of ills like mass corruption, criminality, unemployment, the need to migrate for work and so on.” The state must be purposeful in restructuring, he said.
“If there is no clear concept of reform ... then (the state) will eventually regain its former dimensions,” Duishenbekov added.
Duishenbekov said he supports the authorities’ initiative to do away with some departments and combine others.
“There are obvious examples of overlapping functions,” he said. “Judge for yourself: there is the Drug Control (Agency) and the Chief Administration for Countering Drug Trafficking under the Interior Ministry, and there also are anti-drug units in the Customs Service and the National Security Committee. The question logically arises as to whether we need that many parallel structures to fight this scourge.”
“I should also add that many agencies need not be shut down, but just trim them as much as possible,” Duishenbekov said.
Reducing the number of ministries is not as important as reducing their payrolls, Ar-Namys MP Tokon Mamytov said.
“Let there be a lot of ministers, 20 even, but we need to cut down the number of employees,” he said. “Kyrgyzstan’s current priorities are economic development and countering corruption,” he said.
The reform proposal addresses these problems, Mamytov said.
“However, there will soon be new challenges, and I think that in a few years we will need to create new agencies,” he said. “At that time, we’ll be entering the (Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus) common economic space and (their) Customs Union, and we need to think about how to minimise losses and keep the people from suffering.”
Kyrgyzstan also will need to re-organise its law enforcement and judicial bodies soon, Mamytov said. “The current reform of law enforcement bodies is weak and does not have the desired effect.”
Laid-off will be compensated
About 3,000 of the 3,200 employees facing layoffs will receive compensation, Finance Minister Akylbek Zhaparov said.
“The funds are already allocated for this in the state budget, which parliament must approve,” he said.
Those who lose their jobs will receive two months’ salary -- about $300 (14,000 KGS), Mamytov said.
“Also, by law, the leadership must find employment for (them),” he said. “They can be offered open positions in (government) agencies or get recommendations for openings in private companies.”
The administrative reforms are a starting point, Duishenbekov said.
“But don’t forget that along with reducing personnel, we need to strengthen our oversight of government spending on other matters – official travel, capital investments, tenders, etc. – so that the funds saved by cutting employees do not disappear into other nooks and crannies of the state,” he said.
The downsizing will save money, but compensation packages for the laid-off mean it will take time to see the savings, he predicted.
“(The compensation packages equal) a huge amount of money for the state, so there is no point in expecting budget savings right away,” he said. “But, with the right approach and proper management of finances, the results of the downsizing should be apparent at the end of the calendar year.”