Council of Ministers
The president administers the country through the Council of Ministers--the cabinet--which is headed by the prime minister, a presidential appointee. Up to one-fifth of the members of the cabinet may be persons from outside Parliament, allowing experts to participate in the administration of the country, and the president may attract influential politicians to his party by offering them prestigious ministerial posts. The number of ministers in the cabinet has therefore varied over time, according to presidential political strategies. There were nineteen ministers in the 1982 cabinet of President Abdul Fazal Muhammad Ahsanuddin Chowdhury, but by mid-1988 Ershad had increased the number to twenty-eight. Variations in the number of ministries do not signify the creation or cancelation of government programs but simply the reclassification of government services. For example, in 1982 finance and planning programs were administered by a single ministry with two divisions, but in 1988 a separate ministry was created for each. In addition to changes in the status of various governmental divisions, discontinuities have occurred when the president has periodically dismissed ministers or moved them to different ministries. In the midst of this flux, administrative continuity is provided by the secretariats of the various ministries and regions, staffed by senior members of the Bangladesh Civil Service. Ministerial secretaries have often wielded a great deal of power because they are experienced and have numerous personal contacts in their fields, whereas ministers are typically professional politicians who hold office only for a short time.
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