The Council members have made a national statement through their united stand on pay revision. True not all 25 members shared the same level of firmness but in a show of solidarity, the National Council has decided to defer their pay revision until such a time the revenue sources materialized as envisioned by the Government. I hope it would not be a long wait.
Now how are the other stakeholders of Bhutanese higher ups in the hierarchy going to react? Most probably feign ignorance and slyly pocket the fat pay checks. So be it. Lust for power and wealth are twin irresistible devils.
The Council members were accused of taking a free publicity ride. In spite of their strong objections in televised Sessions, the National Council members would have automatically benefited if the National Assembly passed the pay revision. It was a win-win go to many critics. I personally do not want the NC members and their families to suffer financial loss but for sake of national interest, I thank the honourable members of National Council. It is the honourable way to empower the 25 member House to combat the other 47 member House which stands for no others but themselves. Respect and dignity are earned from the fire of sacrifices and deeds of selflessness.
It was easy for the cowboy of a National Assembly Speaker to dig his spurs into the ribs of willing member horses to take a leap for the greener pastures. But the National Council members proved to be no beast of obedience even if it meant more fodder. For the first time in the history of modern Bhutan since the turn of the last century (114 years ago), power and wealth failed to win over any and all forces.
I feel relieved that the Council members did not decree that they too would donate their new excess salary to charity. The Prime Minister should follow the honourable lead of the NC members instead of some vague charity donation gimmick which some observers have interpreted as dodging PIT. I do not agree with the PIT angle but there is no denying that donation to a charity is a political publicity game. Why not leave the money with the source be it the salary difference or sales proceeds of gifts? The Government has the largest charity donation box.
I am still amazed that the cabinet of the second democratic government is all out to milk the nation for themselves and their fellows in the hierarchy set up. This continuous propaganda of more take home pay for civil servants will cause mouth ulcer to government propagandists. The only bankable source of funds is the raise in Chukha tariff which the previous government had initiated with India. Why can’t this second government come up with real substantive ways to create revenues? How much can really be saved through pool vehicles and expensive electric powered cars with low efficiency track record? Really peanuts.
The government could make substantial savings in fuel import cost if it takes over the import of all fuels and then distribute through existing private outlets. If managed sensibly by honest officials, it will put a full stop to any flow back of gas, petrol or diesel to the sources of import. The import quantum will definitely reduce. The import of fuel has been identified as the main black hole of not just rupee resources but major portion of national revenue. All foreign registered vehicles fueling in Bhutan especially in border towns should be required to pay for fuel in the currency of the country the vehicles are registered.
The nationalization of fuel imports along with the 5% tax would certainly reduce import and increase revenue income for the government.
Bhutan’s consumption of alcohol especially beer and stable food rice is very high. It is disproportionate to the population even after taking into consideration foreign labourers of over 100, 000. There has to be some loopholes that can be plugged to conserve national resources.
A major portion of 20% pay revision for civil servants would be generated from such easy to implement policies. And if the Bhutanese democratic leaders have the stomach to measure up to Narender Modi then go for renegotiation on hydro projects financing or power tariff. It really would improve the national financial resource and solve the rupee crisis. It is possible to earn your substantial pay as well as fulfill the promised 20% pay hike for civil servants without milking the last drop of exchequer.
I do not begrudge good pay for good input. But giving less to civil servants to have more for higher ups is NO! NO! No Good.
Sangey of Haa Wangcha. Dated 28th June, 2014.