With funding and staff constraints, Ethnic Affairs Ministry faces delays
DUE to a shortage of funds and extremely limited staffing, the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs will not be fully functional until the next financial year, according to a deputy director general.
The ministry was first established on March 30 by the National League for Democracy-led government. By May 25 it already had a name change, from its initial “Ministry of Ethnic Races’ Affairs”, but still no budget.
“Practically speaking, just seven government officials were transferred from other ministries and are handling the tasks of our ministry,” ministry deputy director general L Tu Main Goung said at an August 26 press conference.
The ministry has been allocated no particular budget by parliament, but is being allowed to use K40 million from the president’s fund.
“The ministry’s headquarters and two departments are going to be established this year in Nay Pyi Taw,” L Tu Main Goung added. But branches for all states and regions will not be able to open until the 2017-18 fiscal year, budget permitting.
“We will open region and state level departments. Ministers for ethnic affairs have worked without having offices or a staff. Now we will organise offices and staff members for them,” he said.
The ministry currently operates two branches, the Department of Ethnic Literature and Culture and the Department of Protecting Ethnic Rights.
The ministry was set up in part to protect ethnic rights, and to resolve problems between ethnic groups. But with such severe financial and personnel constraints, the ability to meet such daunting tasks remains limited.
“Ethnic people can file complaints at the offices if they face a violation of ethnic rights,” L Tu Main Goung said.
He said complaints will be handled through negotiations with respective local governments and the Union government.
The lack of resources hasn’t completely stymied the ministry, however. Starting in on its objective to protect ethnic languages, literatures, cultures and traditions, the ministry has drafted language policies for Kachin, Kayin and Mon states as a part of its 100-day plan, the deputy director general said. It will continue to draft policies for all states and regions.
Next month, ethnic affairs ministers have been called to a meeting to assemble working committees, which ideally will address matters of ethnic literature, culture and traditions and a right to freely hold celebrations of ethnic days.
The ministry is also working on recruiting 649 additional staff from other ministries at the same rate of pay as their previous posts.
– Translation by Zar Zar Soe