Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fiscal Incentives and Money Bill confuses comprehension.

Just went through today's Kuensel Front page news. " Govt. dismisses Fiscal Incentives accusations".

Money Bill needs the approval of National Assembly. The same bill if approved by National Assembly goes to National Council for its views and recommendation though these are not binding upon the National Assembly. The National Council has no mandate to reject a Money Bill but it can shape public opinion with critical review. It can also make suggestions which if accepted by the National Assembly, would be incorporated.

According to Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, "Fiscal Incentives" are within the authority of the Executive/ Government. This in reality means that approval  of even  National Assembly is  not required. The precedents support this contention of the Prime Minister.

Now one wonders why the Government introduced  "Fiscal Incentives, 2016 " as a Money Bill when it declares that " Fiscal Incentives" are not required to receive approval of the National Assembly before implementing. 

What the Government seems to have tried to do was prevent another Government from doing away with the "Fiscal Incentives"  that it has granted by coating these " Fiscal Incentives"  as a Money Bill.  If a differen Party Government comes, that Government can immediately stop " Fiscal Incentives "  given by the previous Government though not with retrospective effect. This is possible only if the " Fiscal Incentives" are the prerogative of the Executive as put forth by the Prime Minister. However, to undo a Money Bill, the new Government has to go back to National Assembly and also receive Royal Assent. And that takes more time and effort. So the " Fiscal Incentives" granted by this Government cannot be instantly done away by a new different Party Government. The subsequent effect is that  it gives the industries receiving " Fiscal Incentives " the crucial  lobbying time and avenue. Generally any reigning Political Party would be reluctant to withdraw "Fiscal Incentives" unless political  vendetta is warranted to the extreme. In Bhutan political vendatta can be very narrow sighted.

The present Government cannot have the cake as well as eat it. Unless a Money Bill or any Bill passed by the National Assembly or the Parliament can be applied with retrospective effect ( most unusual), the " Fiscal Incentives" granted by the Government prior to the approval of this Mony Bill is subject to full recovery. And that is quite an uncomfortable prospect for the present Government. 

I do agree with the Prime Minister in his view that the call by DNT for resignations of the Finance Minister and himself is more a publicity stunt than Constitution based. ( I do also accept that all over the world,  political parties are prone to hype self achievements and hype even more the wrong doings of others. That's the nature of party politics. So DNT call is normal rather than exception).  

The Government did not breach the Constitution. But it does look like the Finance Ministry out witted itself in the Fiscal Incentive issue. The Government must comply with its own call for standard. If another Government is expected to follow the Money Bill standard for Fiscal Incentives, hereafter,  then PDP Government must set the example. Thus the present Government must  recoup back what the National Exchequer lost through grant of  " Fiscal Incentives" by it during the period uncovered by the Mony Bill.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Toilet Cleaners.

The most famous toilet cleaner in Bhutan is Chaplop Passang. His dignity derived from menial labour of cleaning toilets has been distinctively recognised and applauded by His Majesty the King and thus the title, " Chaplop ".

I clean toilets. No, not just toilets within my house. I clean toilet pots and pans and scrub shower room walls of flats vacated by tenants with my bare hands and a rag. My finger nails are short and my shirt sleeves are rolled up. I scrub toilet pots inside and outside and scrub the toilet floors. Toilet pots are easier to clean than the oily dirt cakes on the tiles of shower walls. Sometimes, I wonder how occupants had managed to avoid cleanliness whilst cleaning their physical person.

But I do not complain. It is the least of welcome services that we can do for our incoming tenants and a kind of thank you to the last tenant.  Afterall, our tenants are our main source of livelihood. And by the way, I am just one of the whole family team though I guess as the head of the family, I have some influence in developing the attitude in social and self responsibility. We just want the Triple Gem to know that we are grateful to be a hard working happy  family with the opportunities granted.   And for us cleaning toilets is an opportunity not a penalty. Nothing to be ashamed of and no reason to boast. Just part of our responsibility as life goes on.  

Toilet cleaning is an honest labour but it cannot be anyone's ultimate passion. I did what is necessary to make possible an honest livelihood. I did many things besides cleaning toilets so would most people in their journey of life.
 
Also by necessity, I am an excellent house electrician, an intelligent plumber and even a mediocre carpenter with more skill in guiding than sawing. These  low paying menial jobs for which I never got paid except that no payment had to be paid out to others, contributed to my family welfare along with my many executive posts with revolving chairs and private offices in the Government, the Corporations and even the Media world. By necessity too, I taught myself about laws of the land, religious scriptures,  politics of the day and the happenings of the world in general. Jack of many trades with fortunate proficiencies in few fields including cleaning toilets. Thank Providence that rules Fate and Life.

I became quite an expert, too , in getting babies delivered at home and ofcourse hand-washing all the clothes and bed sheets after a wonderful giddy filled sensation that births at home bring about. From cutting and then tying the cord ends of a new born baby to even cutting children hair to save money on barber service is a job that comes along with fatherhood. I value money and I believe most Bhutanese would not shy away from honest work including cleaning toilets if these  pay adequately. My domestic weakness is that I am a lousy cook and I dread cooking though making tea is an easy job. This handicap in cooking, I partly attribute to my beloved mother. From early childhood , my mother told me, " prepare for the tasks outside the house. Leave the home management to me". And by providence, what a home manager she was! The light of our home lit my life path. On my part, I never shied away from honest works outside the home. Thank you so much incredible mother and home manager. My sole goddess guide.

I have no qualms about doing menial works but it would be incorrect to declare that I enjoy doing them. And now with passing years, there is physical discomfort associated with physical labour. Anyway,  If I had the ultimate choice, I would rather be watching a good movie or reading a novel undisturbed. I can while away a whole day writing or reading or simply being in front of a radio those days but now a TV screen without actually paying much attention to what is happening in and around me in the room. In fact at times forgetting the where I am.  I can even forget about meals. Now you know how I would love to spend most of my days at this stage of life. Still if  called for, I would not mind cleaning toilets.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

PLIGHT OF CIVIL SERVANTS and RCSC.

A positive signal that RCSC is concerned about plight of retired civil servants. Hopefully such concerns are gradually translated into real positive actions.

I see 2 areas that RCSC can set it's goal to ease retirees' agony.

1. RCSC as a central agency could play a lead role to do away with income tax on pension of all retirees whether of private, ngo, corporation, civil service or retired elected officials.

2. Recently much was made about the 20% house rent allowance that was made applicable to all civil servants few years back.  And calls were made to dismantle Civil Service system and introduce contract system. The civil servants were accused of being greedy.  The truth is that in reality most civil servants just got the benefit  only 4% increase in basic pay whilst all elected officials received over 60% hike. RCSC remained totally silent and did not clarify the true situations and roles of civil servants.  Let me elaborate what I feel about RCSC and Civil Servants.

a) That the 20% house rent allowance though a welcome effort to parity within the civil service, a lot of the civil servants  already had Government quarters provided at officer level and lower category staffs, where available, had  quarters with subdised rents. Therefore, they were not eligible for house rent allowance. That is the reasons why the  majority who got only the pitiful 4% increase felt aggrieved and feel continued to be insulted and neglected. 

b) The institution of civil service remain the stabilising force especially in a political environment where individual and political party interest overtake national goals. This is the reason why some forces are out there publicly calling for dismantling the civil service. Such forces who are instigating and leading such calls are well aware that it is the well qualified and dedicated civil servants that stand between ambitious political forces and the sanctity of the Tsawa Soum. If existing civil service system is done away then forces disloyal to the nation could infiltrate civil service in greater numbers. In such an event, even the loyal security forces cannot prevent national subversion.  RCSC must see through these malicious intent of such activists and protect the sanctity, the dignity and welfare of civil servants. Do not allow unhealthy  forces to neglect and dis- honour the civil service group.

c) RCSC must play a proactive role in ensuring a sustainable monthly salary for civil servants in the same way it is ensuring quality out put from civil servants. Whilst elected officials goes all out to help themselves and each other, civil servants have only the RCSC and the Blessings of the King who alone fully comprehends the indispensable role of civil cadres. His Majesty the King cannot directly intervene. It is the RCSC which must directly shoulder the task of ensuring a fair deal for all categories of civil servants. A genuine relief for civil servants who retire would be a better remuneration and respects whilst in active service. It  does not do much good to extent empty sympathy to retired people. However, I applaud RCSC for being aware of the many problems the retirees undergo and the attempt to tackle such issues within the limitted capacity / resources  that RCSC has at its disposal. 

On a personal note about house rent. I never paid house rent whilst as a civil servant. For over 12 years the Government paid the house rent and after that I managed to build a hut of my own in what was then a far corner of Thimphu Valley and thereafter never claimed housing allowance from Government. A cow, few pigs and chickens supplemented my family needs. It was hard work but I was motivated to improve welfare of all at home in Haa and my immediate family in Thimphu.  Today the situation is different for all including civil servants. It is most difficult to acquire a spot for a hut even in remote Bhutan and most anyway lack the will and stamina to labour ( from dawn and even after dusk ) even if what I did some decades back is possible in some corners of Bhutan.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Melom Chhenmo and Chhathrims.

Mainly due to the huge investment of his personal commitment, financial contributions  and exhaustive time devoted, His Holiness the Jhe Khenpo Trulku Jigme Choedra has heralded an era where the people of  all 20 Dzongkhags in Bhutan now conduct a yearly Melom Chhenmo.

In all the Dzongkhags, the Melom Chhenmo were initiated and made possible by private people with the active blessings, endorsement and participation of His Holiness. The Dzongkhag Administrations and Dzongkhag Dratsangs naturally played very active and vital roles during the conduct of the annual Great Prayers. However, the main motivators and initiators and the central force behind all the Melom Chhenmo in the Dzongkhags are from amongst the general public ( private as well as officials in private and individual capacity) of respective Dzongkhags. It is not just the funds raised but also the meals served and enthusiasms demonstrated in celebrating and mass attendance by the general public that makes annual Melom Chhenmo such a celebrated and hugely successful spiritual  event. The public have a sense of ownership, responsibility and community togetherness for their Dzongkhag annual Melom Chhenmo. 

Against this backdrop, there is an ongoing process that kind of, hereater, converts this people sponsored and celebrated event into an officially managed affair.  I am told that His Holiness had ordered for a Melom Chhenmo  Chhathrim to be adopted by each Dzongkhag. And such a Chhathrim already adopted by some Dzongkhags specify that successive Dasho Dzongdags as Chairman and the Lam Netens as Vice Chairman of Melom Chhenmo. This naturally transfers the management of accumulated Melom Chhenmo Fund under the authority of respective Dzongdags and Lam Netens. And Melom Chhenmo becomes an official event.

I am rather dismayed that public role in what they so fervently built up, will be diminished to an extent that in few years time,  public say will be rendered nil. I am not surprised that Dzongdags and Lam Netens are so readily accepting the roles of Chairman and Vice Chairmanships. Maybe,  they feel that their institutional roles should be rewarded more or that they should have their hands into the funds which is not subject to official audit.  Maybe they are only submitting to the wishes of His Holiness.

It is possible that His Holiness hopes to ensure Melom Chhenmo durability in the years ahead through a Chhathrim that places the annual Melom Chhenmo event under the authority and management of the Dzongkhag administration and the Dratsang.

I humbly feel that to remove the central role and say of the public from Melom Chhenmo is like removing the soul from the body. The durability of Dzongkhag Melom Chhenmo can be most effectively assurred by simply having the Central Monastic Body formalise for the future the  successive Jhe Khenpos gracing the Melom Chhenmo of each Dzongkhag in the footstep of His Holiness the present Jhe Khenpo. . Such a Dratsang  commitment would be whole heartedly and most gratefully cherished and welcomed by the public of 20 Dzongkhags. And Melom Chhenmo event will be celebrated in the grandest of spirit and faith even after the time of His Holiness Trulku Jigme Choedra and without a Chhathrim.       

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What I call a Glaring denial.

I would never belittle any Political Party whether old or new or in the process of formation and their Party heirachy. It is a herculean task to establish and maintain a Political Party in Bhutan.

Democracy cannot make headway without Political Parties and differing personalities. The Parties do shoulder heavy respinsibilities. There is no easy way to even form a Political Party given the restrictions and requirements in place. I value and respect all political parties.

Therefore, actually today,  I just wanted to listen rather than raise doubt at this juncture.  But I just cannot convince myself that the founder of BKP did not indicate that BKP would like Dasho Neten to head the Party whilst approaching her. Also such crucial matter would have had to be discussed among core party members even if for sake of formality.  All else and views are what a party would want to promote or percieve and one can await further concrete development. Today's interview had to be what one calls a soft approach. I did not expect the new BKP President to come up with concrete ideas at this introductory BBS appearance. But this denial of having a prior idea of her position in the Party hierachy creates an unnecessary black hole. Can a politician of whatever calibre truly respect and trust the public with even a simple plain truth?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Beware of what World Bank economist Martin Rama said.

I read today's Kuensel article titled " Hydro revenue ..." highlighting what Martin Rama said about Bhutanese economy.  I am thunder struck with the recommendation that states " park additional hydropower revenue instead of giving a pay hike". Park yes because we need to have reserves but why emphasis do not raise civil servants pay?

Normally,  I would not see the devilish intent behind this advice but for the ongoing fb post of grievances about pay by some civil servants. And The Bhutanese attacking such sentiments.

The fact is majority of civil servants received an increase of 4% of basic pay the last time when MPs and other elected officials got over 60% increase. Earlier Local elected officials had also received substantial increase. This time Local elected officials got on the average over 50% increase in salary. I am happy with the increase and other benefits given for multiple reasons.

I would not begrudge what elected political officials get but I also can understand why civil servants desire for better pay. Whether the nation can afford or not can be of economic or political basis. I also understand that within the nation there have to be opposing views and I do not begrudge even the attacks upon the civil servants by The Bhutanese which some view as an unofficial PDP Party mouth piece. I reserve my opinion on this particular assumption. But when an outsider like Martin Rama of World Bank makes unwarranted interference into a hot national issue, my antenna goes up. World Bank is not just a monetary institution. It is highly political in composition and strategy.

What our leaderships  think of this is possibly beyond the humble parameters of most of us the common citizens including myself.  But at personal  level, I see it as a divisive advice. Why did Martin Rama feel particularly obliged to throw a World Bank spanner into this local issue about civil servants pay raise or no raise. All over the world the intellectuals instigate and the masses respond. Is a foreign factor introducing a disruption between the engine that runs the national train and the driver that directs the train.

The Bhutanese has concluded that civil servants are too few in number to influence the outcome of an  Election. I do not even know whether every civil servants will vote or not and if they vote for whom they will vote let alone concluding that they can or cannot  change election result.  All I know is civil servants are of diverse make and inclination and I have no basis to draw a conclusion that civil servants act as a group in political or any other major issues except in their common responsibility to serve the Tsawa Sum.

For me salary has always been an economic matter never a political issue. And I hope it remains so for many employees dependent solely on one income: Their monthly salary.

Monday, May 22, 2017

President Trump of America, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and President Rouhani of Iran.

The King of Saudi Arabia and the President of United States declares that  Iran as a nation funds and provides safe haven for terrorists and spearheads terrorism. But both the leaders puts the blame upon the Iranian regime. The people of Iran are innocent they declared. Somehow, I feel the world super power and the richest Arab Kingdom are way off regarding the supposed disconnect between the populace and Government of Iran. Perhaps targeting only the regime could be part of possible ongoing clandestine activities of fomenting insurrections  inside Iran by the two nations 

In my view, the Iranian people have elected their leaders. Just few days back President Rouhani was re- elected for a second term. The world in general view President Rouhani as a moderate and intelligent leader. He negotiated the Nuclear Deal with America plus other 5 nations. His re-election proves that he is a popular leader among the populace. So there cannot be disconnect between him and his people who gave him a very convincing second term. 

Facts of history.

1. Iran is the only Islam nation who successfully stood up against American might. From throwing the Shah out to takeover of American Embassy in Teran to withstanding decades of American lead sanctions and freezing of its world assets including bank accounts until the Nuclear Deal.

2. Iranian President is directly elected  by the people of Iran. So majority votes is required.  Not by delegates as in America where Trump became President although Hillary got majority votes. So Iranian system is more democratic in the sense of choice of the majority.

3. Iran is not like Saudi Arabia which is ruled by an absolute Monarch and thousands of Royal family members who own the national wealth and have total say in national affairs.  

4. Iran opposes aggressions of weak nations in the Middle East by America, Israel and Saudi Arabia. That is why Iran helps Hezbollah in Lebanon bullied by Israel,  Islamic force in Yemen invaded by Saudi Arabia and Palestine people persecuted and walled in by Israel.

5. Iran did not create ISIS. America created ISIS out of Taliban forces  and the disbanded Army of Saddam Hussain of Iraq. Taliban was created by Osama Bin Laden who was a member of Saudi Royal Family.

6. Iran has not attacked any country in modern history. America has conquered Iraq, destroyed Libya and now attacking Syria. Refugee floods have been unleashed by American conducted wars.  Saudi Arabia is funding the Opposition Forces of Syria and invading Yemen with American supplied war planes and bombs. So if Allah ever delivers justice, probably Iran will triumph in the ultimate fight between what President Trump has termed the war between " Good and Bad ".

Monday, May 15, 2017

China's Belt and Road Initiative Conference at Beijing ( 14 and 15 May 2017) that India did not attend. Bhutan shied away as usual.

India is a member of AIIB ( Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and NDB ( New Development Bank). However, India  did not participate in this mammoth China conference on Belt and Road Initiative. It is said that over 120 nations and international organisations including Heads of UNO, WTO and IMF attended the Conference. India's reluctance to attend is to do with Chinese investment ( some 54 billion dollars ) in Pakistan side of Jammu Kashmir which India interprets as offence to Indian sovereignty over whole of Jammu Kashmir region.

All other SAARC nations except Bhutan attended the conference and they are also members of AIIB. The China promoted Belt and Road Initiative is welcomed by almost all nations including America, all East and West European nations, Japan, two Koreas and Russia. The ASEAN countries and African nations are enthusiastic participants. This initiative is to bring the countries of Africa, Asia and Europe closer through trade and economic linkages.

China is promoting in a modern way,  the old silk routes both overland and over the sea. It is considered an ambitious giant economic venture that will transform world approach to economic, trade and social progress. It could very well even change the political landscape.  The initiative would generate an investmrnt of over one trillion dollars. No nation would want to be left out as it could very well bring about a new World economic order. America which was initially reluctant, has had to  change her stance in the last minute because she had much to lose if isolated. 

Maybe India, too, will have to reconsider her present stance in view of the vast economic opportunities. India like America just cannot exclude herself from all the rest who are actively participating.  BBIN was in a way a small effort by India to hinder China's 3 Continents trade and economic plan. Until recently India had American support but the Super Power has undergone a change of heart and now favours the Chinese land and maritime silk route ventures.

Participants from Europe, America and some international organisations have asked for more clarity and transparency. The President of China may have done just that in his addresses to over 1200 delegates including 29 Heads of State and Government attending the Conference .

America and Western European nations could be seeking opportunities for their own Corporations without actually making financial investment from their respective national coffers. However, China and her national companies are undertaking huge projects in many countries under this umbrella and building sea ports, airports, railways, roads, bridges and developing industrial zones. A major portion of investments in these giant development projects are funded by China. Most Asian and African nations are grateful to China for  successfully taking up projects that other developed nations and international banks had refused to fund. Chinese Companies are reputed to execute huge projects within project time frame and with excellent quality. In that way both China and the host nations benefit.

So it is quite a different scenario from that of our  own Indo- Bhutan hydro projects and especially not like the Chukka-  Damchu 29 Km length bypass motor road under construction by the Indian national military wing DANTAK for almost a decade. Maybe that explains the absence of India and  Bhutan at the  Beijing conference. With the the kinds of delays and cost escalations that we are suffering in both motor roads  and hydro projects, it is just not possible to stomach the goals of One Belt and One Road Initiatives that span across 3 Continents. Om Mani Pedmi Hung to that phobia.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Traffic Management and School Buses.

The introduction of bus services by Thromde for two schools in Thimphu will positively ease traffic congestion and provide time relief to many parents. The drivers have great responsibilities. Even sudden braking could cause injuries.

Buses are packed to the maximum limit including standing spaces. Therefore,  students also must exercise utmost discipline in the constricted environment where both big and small girls and boys are jam packed. I do not think such jam packed travelling condition even for short duration is socially a desirable environment. The trip would be around 35 to 45 minutes considering  embarking and waiting for bus to be filled to the brim and in the process of struggling to reach the exit whilst disembarking from the bus.  Peer pressures, eve teasing, physical harrassment could become prevalent in congested enclosure of a moving bus with hardly room to breathe. 

I would like to thank most gratefully the Traffic Police men and women for the superb job they did till now. Every morning and evening so many cars came to drop and pick up students at YHS and Lungtenzampa School Parking and yet traffic flowed with certainty and free of accidents.  Thank you so much RBP particularly the Traffic Division.  I also appreciate the concerns and care of parents who in caring for the safety of their own children also contributed in  preserving the safety of children of other parents.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

JAB and Journalists.

Congratulations to the Winners of Awards. And keep at it all members for awards are not booked in advance. Only earned through process each year.

Hard News does not come on a platter unless the source has a motive to share it. News especially tell tales type have to be dug. If officials do not provide information at your convenience especially a telephone call at odd hours, maybe thats not how you get hard news. Be up and awake when others are working.

There is long standing tradition of building personal contact network and watching out for those who leak informations to serve their own purpose. Soliciting rather than demanding could be a way. And investigative journalism is more than gathering gossips, better than police or official narrative and consist of views from multi angles and tying of numerous threads and loose ends. 

Financial difficulties of a media agency  can limit choice of coverage but is in no way related to quality of Press Freedom. If you are fair and free then you can get away with almost all your lines. In other words create your own space of media freedom. Earn respect through your output.  Its hard work on continuous basis.Tenacity is the call. However, Government support to cover major events will help providing wider information to general public.

Limitted readership and advertisement sources plus lack of financial discipline among media agencies are hindrance to overall media development. Journalists too must practice quality standard to gain public confidence which is a different yardstick from social media/fb popularity. 

Personal attacks even unsubstantiated and anti establishment stands attract popularity in our society and social media. However, only substantive journalism can earn long term credit and also create positive impact. May good journalism contribute to building the nation.