The Armenian government on Thursday made the final decision to reduce the number of its ministries from 17 to 12 and lay off some of their employees.
A government bill setting a new structure of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s cabinet was sent to the parliament for approval. Its passage by the National Assembly controlled by Pashinian’s My Step alliance is widely seen as a forgone conclusion.
As expected, the bill would abolish the post of first deputy prime minister, meaning that Pashinian will have only two deputies. More importantly, it would dissolve the Armenian ministries of agriculture, energy, culture, Diaspora, and sports and youth affairs.
In particular, the ministries of education, culture, and sports and youth affairs would be turned into a single agency. A similar merger of the ministries of energy and local government would lead to the creation of a new Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures. The Diaspora Ministry is due to be scrapped altogether.
The government announced plans for such a restructuring in December, sparking street protests by hundreds of Diaspora and culture ministry employees fearing a loss of their jobs. Pashinian countered that the planned change is in tune with his repeated pledges to downsize the government made during campaigning for the December 9 parliamentary elections won by his bloc.
Pashinian insisted on Thursday that the government will operate more efficiently as a result of the changes. He also confirmed that at least some employees of the affected ministries will be laid of s but did not give any numbers.
“Yes, there will be staff cuts but those staffs will follow an evolutionary pattern,” he said at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
A leaked government document publicized this week by a senior member of the former ruling Republican Party (HHK) suggested that as many as 10,000 civil servants will be laid off in the coming weeks or months. Finance Minister Atom Janjughazian effectively denied that when he spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian on Tuesday.
Some public administration experts have questioned the wisdom of having fewer government ministries. They say that the new “super ministries” would only slow down the work of the state bureaucracy.