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Ministry Restructuring Under Scrutiny

By News Briefing Central Asia
A new system for managing Kazakstan’s ministries will see their functions divided into political and administrative roles. But NBCentralAsia analysts warn the reform will not provide a quick fix to the problems of corruption and inefficiency, and could lead to fierce power struggles within each ministry.

On March 6, the government announced details of a new system for running state institutions, which is modelled on a corporate approach to management.

In a speech to members of the upper house of Kazakstan’s parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Aslan Musin said that according to the new scheme, a dividing line will be drawn between the political and administrative functions of ministries and provincial government bodies. Under a corporate style of management, senior officials will be relieved of the day-to-day work involved in implementing ministry aims.

Government ministers will no longer have deputies, and each ministry will have a board of directors and a director-general, the latter appointed directly by the Kazak president.

Political observer Nikolai Kuzmin explains that the new director-generals will operate like the chief executive of a corporation, who handles administration and other practical matters. The minister and the board of directors, on the other hand, will be like the owners of a corporation, exercising political power and addressing strategic issues.

Although the new system should feature greater transparency and accountability, Kuzmin warns that this alone will not make government immune to corruption and inefficiencys.

NBCentralAsia’s analysts pointed to another innovation which they think might help speed up the decision-making process – the creation of a board of advisors in each ministry.

One analyst, Petr Svoik, says the new system will be more rational than the old pattern where “a minister’s superiors tried to control his staffing policy by surrounding him with several deputy ministers”.

The system will also protect ministries from swings in political direction, since the director-general will stay on even when the minister goes.

However, Svoik warned that the new system could create two rival factions within each ministry, potentially leading to dangerous divisions.

“The flaw is that ministries will become divided… Two appointments will be made – the minister, with no deputies; and the chief administrative officer, who will have his own staff. They will have to share the ministry somehow,” he said.

(News Briefing Central Asia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region.)