Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vice Ministers

I am a regular reader of His Excellency the Opposition Leader’s Blog ( The last post there deals with the proposed renaming of the Government Secretaries as “Vice Ministers”.
The Opposition Leader wonders why? I too wondered: why indeed?
On the face of it, the proposal seems totally meaningless. I mean like the Opposition Leader says, who do we need to impress? Simply none! And what do we get by impressing others? Simply nothing! So then, unless our elected leaders have nothing better to do than engage in affairs designed solely to impress others, there must be some purpose to this supposedly meaningless exercise. I began to think about the matter.
To begin with I was intrigued by the choice of the nomenclature “Vice Minister”. Why Vice Minister? Why not Deputy Minister? Deputy Minister is so much easier to pronounce than Vice Minister. I began to wonder: is there a reason why “Vice Minister” is preferred over “Deputy Minister”? I also wondered: how can a Vice Minister serve a function or a purpose that a Deputy Minister or a Secretary cannot? That is when I began to see the light of day.
The Constitution’s Article 20.2 does not allow the Executive to create more Ministries solely for the purpose of appointing Ministers. And it would be quiet ridiculous to appoint Ministers without a Ministry. However, Bhutan has a peculiar problem where we do not need more Ministries but need more Ministers. And why do we need more Ministers?
Because, our Ministers spend too much valuable time attending international conferences rather than doing meaningful work at home. By re-naming the Government Secretaries as Vice Ministers, most of the international Ministerial level conferences can be attended by the Vice Ministers; without breaking protocol. This lightens the burden on the Ministers. In addition, with more time in hand, the Ministers can visit their constituencies more often than they have been doing. This way, there is no fear of some upstart eating into their support base :)

I think this is a great idea. As to the legal basis of the Executive, it is simple enough. Like one great personality in Bhutan said (during a high level meeting in 1979); “If a National Assembly resolution is no longer valid in the present times, we should have no hesitation in disregarding the resolution on grounds of irrationality and introduce a new one that is more meaningful”.
But ofcourse, our life is now complicated by the need to adhere to the principals of democracy and the 20 additional mouths each and every Bhutanese seem to have acquired, under the aegis of the democratic rights of freedom of speech.