THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Shadow Cabinet, a voluntary initiative to evaluate the state cabinet, has urged the new government to limit the number of ministers to 14 and to avoid political appointments in their personal staff.“Kerala’s total public debt, including guarantees, would come to around Rs 3.26 lakh crore. Covid-19 has further strained the state finances and the new government could set a model in expenditure control by limiting the number of ministers to 14. Apparently, the LDF leadership has spoiled the opportunity, if reports on the new cabinet having 21 ministers are true,” says John Joseph, a core committee member of Shadow Cabinet.
It blames coalition politics for the gradual rise in the number of ministers in Kerala. The number rose when all coalition partners, even those with a single MLA, were given ministership by both the LDF and the UDF. Considering the total number of MLAs, 140, a 14-member cabinet is sufficient for the state if the portfolios are divided judiciously, says the Shadow Cabinet committee.Another suggestion put forward by the committee is to avoid political appointments in ministers’ personal staff.
“As per the prevailing norms, the chief minister, opposition leader and chief whip can appoint 30 personal staffers. Ministers and those with Cabinet ranks can appoint 20 each. Around 490 persons in total. A good majority of them would be party workers and relatives of ministers,” says John Joseph. All of them are eligible for a salary and pension on par with government employees of the same rank.
“The state could save a huge sum every year if these appointments are by way of deputation from government employees. The central government and many state governments are doing that. It is a sham for the state to follow an undemocratic and non-transparent system in these appointments,” he adds. Dr J Prabhash, former pro-vice-chancellor of the Kerala University, says it is high time the state limited the number of ministers and Cabinet-rank appointments.