By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government paved the way for more cuts in its bloated staffs on Thursday by restructuring four different agencies dealing with state procurements, nuclear safety, health care and seismic protection.
The four quasi-independent departments were until now directly subordinated to the prime minister's office. In a further cost-saving push, the government decided to include them in the ministries of finance, environment and health and the department on emergency situations.
The move brought to 15 the number of small government agencies that have undergone a sweeping restructuring recently. According to the chief of the government staff, Manuk Topuzian, more than one thousand government jobs have already been slashed as a result. He said more staff cuts are expected soon.
"The state apparatus will shrink substantially," Topuzian told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.
The structural changes were proposed by a special government commission working on reforming the Armenian civil service. It is headed by Topuzian.
The ad hoc body began its work following the passage last December of a controversial law which is supposed to ensure the independence of the state bureaucracy by protecting government employees against arbitrary dismissals.
The legislation allowed President Robert Kocharian to name all seven members of a special commission overseeing the civil service. The Armenian opposition says the clause is unconstitutional.