Tuesday, June 27, 2017

On Fiscal Incentives becoming Money Bill and proposed National Water Commission

Well !  Very much in character of Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, he faced the nation on BBS live a while ago..

Just watched the PM defending the approach of his Government on issues of   1.Fiscal Incentives as Money Bill  and   2.Proposed National Water Commission.

My takes:

PM says that  Fiscal Incentive granted by DPT Government 3 days before winding up its term resulted in Nu:186 million savings for 94 hotels so far. And out this amount Nu: 76 million was the savings of the Le Meriden Hotel of the daughter of  former Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba. Quite a statistic.   Possible that the hotel Le Meriden Thimphu did more business and therefore,  benefitted more  from the incentives granted. However, with such a fact surfacing, one does realise the necessity of more transparency in  Fiscal Incentive given by a Government.

2. I still stand by my blog I wrote on 24th June, 2017 on " Fiscal Incentives and Money Bill. I feel it is too simple to leave the whole issue of Fiscal Incentives becoming  Money Bill upon the Speaker's decision only.  However,  I do not find any valid ground regarding DNT calls for resignations.  Maybe for the same reason, the Opposition Party and the NC have not publicly backed DNT stand.

3. I share Lyonchhen's view that Money Bills will always get passed by a sitting  Government but there will be transparency even for Fiscal Incentives.

4. Regarding Water Commission, the PM is aware about the Act that empowers NEC on matters of water resources. So DPT stand which I read  in Kuensel today is very valid and legitimate. However, with the proposal for National Water Commission, it seems the Government intends to make parallel approaches. Drafting the proposal for National Water Commission and also working towards framing necessary legislation/ amendments to legally constitute the Commission. As a citizen I simply look for the necessity since existing  legislations can always be amended and new  created by the Parliament.

At personal level, I am dismayed with many water sources drying up. Such news dominates anxieties of rural people in BBS TV news. The urban residents also face acute water scarcity. It is not just irrigation and drinking water issues as vital as these are. Water is the soul of natural vegetation upon which a nation survives. In my own perception, the nation must be more serious and sincere in regards to water sources and management of dry wastes. I hope these two environmental agendas get the blessings of all authorities, Agencies,  Political Parties and all citizens.

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


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.