Current Affairs Political pundit: Abolishing three ministries merely attempt at distracting attention from government’s real problems
Talks between the ruling government coalition’s Civic Democrats and junior partner Public Affairs on Thursday failed to produce a solution to disputes within the coalition. However, the senior Civic Democrats are considering reducing the number of ministries by three, one of the conditions posed by Public Affairs, which earlier this week threatened to quit the coalition should its demands not be met. But is the step to merge the culture, environment and regional development ministries with other existing ministries a sensible one? We put the question to political pundit Jiří Pehe.
“Personally, I don’t think that there is any kind of overriding logic behind this. It is just a political move and I do not see what the Czech Republic will gain from abolishing three ministries and merging them with other ones, because in the end, the bureaucracies from those ministries would simply be moved to the new ministries, so the amount of money saved would not be very significant.
What would this entail in practical terms and wouldn’t some portfolios suffer?
“In practical terms, three ministries would be abolished and their agendas would be moved into existing ministries. And I personally do not believe this would solve any of the problems that the government is trying to solve, mainly to save money. I think it would be bad for symbolic reasons, because some ministries have their identities and names simply because they represent important areas of social and political life, so the Environment Ministry or the Culture Ministry definitely could exists as departments in other ministries But they exist as independent ministries simply because society wants to show that these areas are important to it, so I do not think this is a particularly smart move.”
Commentator Julie Hrstková of Hospodářské noviny writes that this move is simply a way of diverting the public attention away from the actual problems within the government. Do you agree with this judgment?
“I think that a lot of these cosmetic moves in the government are a way of diverting attention from really significant problems, for example the inability of the government to properly claim EU funds, and the fact that the Czech Republic may soon lose hundreds of millions or even billions of crowns in funds, and there are other significant problems at ministries that the government is not planning to abolish, at the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry and the Education Ministry. I think that all of these moves have to be taken for what they are: a way of diverting the public’s attention from real problems, and no one who follows politics more closely would mistake them for actual reformist moves.”