Iceland sets out plans to reduce number of government ministries

VGIceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir may yesterday have submitted a bill to parliament that seeks to bring the number of ministries down from 12 to nine; but some government members are unhappy.

Jon Bjarnason, the current Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, says he does not intend to support the bill and two other Left Green MPs have also indicated their opposition to the bill.

The Left Greens are the minor coalition partner in government along with Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir’s Social Democrats. The new bill was submitted by the PM and includes provision for merging the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Tourism and the Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture together into a new Ministry for Employment and Innovation.

The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Welfare would merge into a new Ministry of Welfare and a new Ministry for Internal Affairs would take over from both the current Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Ministry of Communications. It is predicted the changes will save ISK 360 million (USD 2.8 million) a year.

A cross political committee will look into and comment on the bill this summer and it is unlikely it will come up for debate in parliament before the autumn term.

Jon Bjarnason told that the bill is ill-prepared and seeks to get rid of the fisheries and agriculture ministry right at the time it is needed most: while the economy is reliant on the two sectors and in the middle of Iceland’s EU application process. Fisheries and agriculture policy are central to European Union policy. He insists his opposition to the bill is not from fear for his job, but rather a response to the concerns of Left Green party members, farmers and fishermen.

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