Industry Ministry to Be Split, New ‘Handicraft’ Focus

The National Assembly is set to dismantle the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, rebuilding it as the Ministry of Mines and Energy and creating a new Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts, a senior CPP lawmaker confirmed on Friday.

The move comes just a few weeks after members of the ruling CPP took their seats at the National Assembly despite a boycott from the opposition CNRP’s 55 lawmakers’ elect, meaning the vote to split the institution will be effectively unopposed.

“The government’s request to get approval from the National Assembly for splitting the current Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy into two separate ministries will be brought before parliamentarians in the next plenary session that will be held sometime this month,” said Cheam Yeap, who is a member of the Assembly’s Permanent Committee.

“It’s so important to split this ministry into two separate ministries, because the scale of work is too big,” Mr. Yeap said, “so it’s worth it to ensure effectiveness in enriching the power sector and the small-scale industry sector into a medium enterprise sector.”

It is not yet known, however, what position current Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Cham Prasidh will be given once the ministry is split, nor exactly what “handicrafts” refers to.

The Assembly’s plenary session begins on Tuesday, overseen by National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

The draft budget law for 2014—which set aside $6.3 million for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy—is expected to pass, but lawmakers will also discuss the creation of new government institutions, including the industry and handicrafts ministry Mr. Yeap said.

If the motion passes, it will bring to 28 the number of ministries in the country for the fifth mandate of government.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said on Friday the splitting of the ministry in two would prove futile and serve to only further bloat the government, particularly as neither ministry deals with a pressing issue.

“There is nothing important to be gained from reducing or creating the new government ministries,” Mr. Sovann said.

“What should be done is solving the matter of salaries for civil servants. Second, should be combating corruption, not the creation of new ministries. They do not serve the people’s interests.”

Mr. Sovann said the public is already unhappy with the time that is often spent waiting for the slow bureaucratic cogs of public service to turn, “especially the extortion in getting those public services.”

Mr. Yeap denied that the split is being used as a way to divide power among the ruling CPP’s members, saying that there are “thousands” of new power projects and industrial operations that need to be addressed effectively.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, supporting the creation of the new ministry, said the move would help transform Cambodia from a country that relies on imports to one that produces goods for domestic and international markets, though he did not offer specifics in how that would be achieved by splitting the ministry in two.

As for the new ministerial positions, he said that would ultimately lie with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“We need approval from the National Assembly so that Sam­dech Prime Minister can decide who will be the right people for the ministers’ positions for the new ministries,” he said.

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