The National Budget Report for the Financial Year 2016-17 released by the finance ministry states that the Dzongkhag Development Grant has been initiated whereby Nu 7mn will now be allocated for each dzongkhag. A share of the HRD budget will also go to the dzongkhags for “professionalizing civil service”. The DDG has been instituted on the lines of the Gewog Development Grant as we see it and both these grants’ origins can imaginably be traced back to the controversial Constituency Development Grant. But arguably, the end does justify the means in these cases.
From the devolution of power at the highest order of the Monarchs who have always emphasized decentralization of authority, we have come a long way since the Third Druk Gyalpo instituted the first Dzongkhag Yargye Tshogdu.
Till now, we have had central agencies governing those at the dzongkhag and gewog levels but this seems to be changing fast. Local leaders these days are more informed and educated individuals who have got a grasp on issues that concern their jurisdiction and even those that are of bigger, national interest. They are also elected officials who hold a certain sway over the locals.
So when something like the DDG comes up, we can only at first instant be encouraged that now the dzongkhags will have a secure though limited reserve of funds which the more-able local leaders can use to implement developmental activities. This would certainly go a long way in decentralizing responsibilities as well.
A plan that can benefit a dzongkhag immensely can now be implemented without unnecessary delays caused by budget constraints or bureaucratic tape at the higher echelons. This would also encourage out-of-the-box thinking and innovation at the local level for those planning to use the funds optimally.
While the DDG seems to be a progressive initiative, we need checks and balances in place to ensure that the grant is utilized properly. Chapter 9, Article 110 of the Local Government Act states that local governments shall publish their respective five year and annual plans, including annual programs and budgets which shall be made available to the public. Laws like this are important to create a conducive environment in which grants like this one are used efficiently.
Another aspect of this new devolution of power is the sharing of a chunk of the HRD budget to the dzongkhags for civil service development. While this is also commendable, the authorities concerned have to keep in mind that mandates are not duplicated: the Royal Civil Service Commission along with other central agencies have the onus of developing and making the civil service more professional and compact therefore the HRD budget allocated to the dzongkhags should only make it easier for the afore-mentioned to consolidate their mandates and functions without duplication or worse, contradiction and contravention.
For now, the how’s and when’s of the additional funds allocated to dzongkhags seem unclear. We need clear rules and regulations to streamline the whole process of procuring the funds and most especially, using them in the best ways possible.
A set of guidelines and rules to make the whole issue transparent would go a long way in removing bureaucratic hassles and public dissent while preventing wastage, redundancy or inappropriate diversion of precious resources that could otherwise make a whole lot of difference to the majority of dzongkhags.