However, it is clear that the government has totally forgotten its promise given to the nation during the 2015 presidential election to appoint a relatively small Cabinet on a scientific basis. Under the election promises or pledges, the number of Cabinet ministers was to be limited to 30, but it has risen to 47 now with the new inclusion of Tilak Marapana with a new portfolio called Development Assignment.
This inflation of the Cabinet and the number of deputies and state ministers has undoubtedly puffed up the cost of maintaining them. This happens not by way of their salary which is far below that of many employees in the private sector. It is through the perks they are awarded that the ministers become a burden to the public coffers. A recent newspaper report said the government spends Rs.7.5 million a month for the maintenance of a minister. We have nearly a hundred ministers including deputies and state ministers.
The government had allocated Rs.1,200 million since March this year for luxury vehicles for ministers, each worth more than Rs.30 million and Rs.40 million,while tossing out just Rs.1,000 million for thousands of people to reconstruct their houses destroyed by the floods, rains and landslides in the Kegalle District last year. And it is a well-known fact that most of the duty-free permits for these luxury vehicles are being sold and many politicians dare to openly justify it. However, the Govt. has been compelled to postpone the purchase of these vehicles for one year due to public pressure.
They promised to appoint a Cabinet on a scientific basis. But how can they justify, under the concept of scientific allocation of portfolios and subjects to the ministers, the appointment of State ministers, a portfolio introduced in Sri Lanka by former President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1989, apart from the appointment of deputy ministers. Through the latest cabinet reshuffle Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has been assigned the additional portfolio of State Minister of Mahaweli Development.
We have a Ministry of Policies and Economic Affairs under the Prime Minister. This ministry had under its purview even the subject of rural infrastructure development. But at the same time we have a Development Strategies and International Trade Ministry under Malik Samarawickrama. We also have a Regional Development Ministry under Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Development Assignment ministry under Minister Marapana, while there are many ministries tasked with the development of certain provinces such as the Western Development and Southern Development. The recent Cabinet reshuffle added one more to the list, the Sabaragamuwa Development under Labour Minister John Seneviratne. What is the scientific basis in these appointments? The inevitable question people would ask is, “whither good governance.”