EghtesadOnline: The government is thinking of splitting up three ministries. According to Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs Hosseinali Amiri, the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development is to be broken up into two ministries of “Roads and Transportation” and “Housing and Urban Development”; the Ministry of Sports and Youth is to be divided into “Ministry of Sports” and “National Organization of Youth”; and the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade is to be separated into “Ministry of Industries and Mining” and “Ministry of Commerce.”
The proposal will be submitted to the parliament this week and if approved, President Hassan Rouhani will choose the 12th Cabinet based on the new structure, ISNA quoted Amiri as saying.
Splitting or merging ministries is not a new thing in the Iranian system of governance. The merger of the ministries of “Roads and Transportation” and “Housing” or that of the two ministries of “Industries and Mines” and “Commerce”, both in the fiscal 2011-12 as part of the Fifth Five-Year Development Plan (March 2012-17), are the most prominent examples.
The primary objectives of such moves were to embark on a structural overhaul, including downsizing the government, eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and creating “a single window” to minimize confusion, Financial Tribune reported.
Yet, many experts believe that the merger of the ministries per se only suggested the superficial understanding of former officials about government downsizing.
"The government will become smaller only when officials and executives agree to limit their dominance and pay more attention to the participation of the private sector," the head of Competition and Privatization Commission of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Yalda Rahdar, was quoted as saying by Otaghiranonline.ir.
“The moves spearheaded by the 10th government [led by ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] were in line with the policies of Article 44 of the Iranian Constitution, which tasked the government with reducing the number of ministries from 21 to 17 by the end of the second year of the Fifth Five-Year Development Plan. But in reality, such mergers did not lead to higher productivity or a smaller government. Rather, they caused conflict of interest in some sectors."
Rahdar noted that some departments could not work together effectively while there was no workforce reduction at all.
"Now that the country has opened up to the world, an independent ministry should focus on making the best of the new opportunities. For example, one of the reasons Iran failed to dominate the Russian market during the tension between Ankara and Moscow was the absence of Commerce Ministry," she said.
Ali Fazeli, the head of Iran Chamber of Guilds, said it is impossible to separate Iran from its commercial past.
“Once these ministries merged, the commerce sector was left unattended and the minister failed to direct enough supervision over the whole field due to his overwhelming responsibilities,” he added.
Seyyed Razi Haji Aqa-Miri, the head of Exports Commission of ICCIMA, believes mergers could potentially make ministries enhance their output, but it is unjustifiable to combine sectors of different, irrelevant natures.
“That’s exactly what happened to the Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade. The same problem goes with the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization. None of these three sectors are connected to each other and the importance of tourism overshadowed the other sectors,” he said.
Striking a different note, Mehdi Pourqazi, the head of Industries Commission of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, said breaking up a ministry would be of no help to industries and only give rise to more bureaucracy, new headquarters and deputies and employment of extra workforce.
"The flaws within the ministry won’t go away by splitting it. They are to be blame on policies, the minister and lack of a specific strategy for the country’s industry," he was quoted as saying by Iran newspaper.