Minister of Miserliness


by Szczurek

Marley’s ghost, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrations by John Leech.  Chapman & Hall, 1843.

When Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz introduced Poland’s fast-track IMF adjustment programme, did the ensuing wave of austerity distort the way future Ministers of Economic Affairs read their portfolios? I decided to do a quick bit of Googling to see how some other European countries translated the job of the boss of their ministry of economic affairs into English.

In France Le Ministre de l’économie, de l’industrie et de l’emploi – the charismatic Christine Lagarde – has her job title translated into English as the Minister of Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment.

Lagarde was ranked the 14th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine. She was the first female chairman of the international law firm Baker & McKenzie. She is a member of the Légion d’honneur. She is noted for her good command of English and we can safely assume that the English translation of her job title is 100% correct. In the USA ,where short job titles are popular, her powerful job portfolio is sometimes also rendered as Finance Minister.

Rainer Brüderle, the German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, uses the aforementioned precise translation of Bundesminister für Wirtschaft und Technologie.

Maria van der Hoeven minister van Economische Zaken in Holland has Minister of Economic Affairs printed on her English business cards.

In Switzerland the title of the relevant ministry has evolved over the years to reflect its growing importance:

1848-1872 Department of Trade and Customs
1873-1878 Railway and Trade
1879-1887 Department of Trade and Agriculture
1888-1895 Department of Industry and Agriculture
1896-1914 Department of Trade, Industry and Agriculture
1915-1978 Department of Economic Affairs
1979-current Federal Department of Economic Affairs

Doris Leuthard is the Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (French: Département fédéral de l’économie; German: Eidgenössisches Volkswirtschaftsdepartement; Italian: Dipartimento federale dell’economia). She is also incidentally President of the Swiss Confederation.

Last but not least, Britain’s Baron Mandelson, is the First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council and in his spare time tells Gordon Brown what to do.

There are plenty of best practice examples for what the Minister in charge of a nation’s economic affairs should put on his English business card. The choice of Deputy Prime Minister, Waldemar Pawlak, to describe his job as Minister of Economy is not one of them.


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