Deferring LTC, not a desirable option: NC members

The National Council (NC) deliberated on the National Budget Report for the Financial Year 2020-21 which also included the Budget Appropriation for FY 2020-21 and the Supplementary Budget Appropriation for FY 2019-20.

Deliberating on the report, some members raised concerns over the government’s budget policies of deferring Leave Travel Concession (LTC) and withholding transfer benefits for civil servants and made suggestions of exploring alternative measures if available. 

During the discussion on the National Budget Report for the Financial Year 2020-21, some of the NC members said slashing the transfer benefit is not a desirable alternative. There are other options government can explore and consider. Some members suggested for the deferment of Waste and Stray Dog Management and Water Flagship Programs in order to curb expenditure, while some supported these programs as prioritized by the government.

As an alternative to government expenditure, rationalization measure of deferring LTC and slashing transfer benefits, the National Council recommended saving 10% from the total budget of budgetary agencies and utilizing the human resource development and training budget of civil servants.

In the deliberation on Thursday, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said deferring LTC and slashing travel benefits for the civil servant would save the government a sum of Nu 700mn this fiscal year.

The total budget appropriation for the financial year 2020-21 is estimated as Nu 74bn of which Nu 33bn is for current expenditure and the rest for capital expenditure.

The National Council’s Economic Affairs Committee will present the final recommendation to the house in the following sessions.

While deliberating on the report, the House with the show of hands unanimously endorsed the Annual Financial Statements for FY 2018-19.

According to an official from the Ministry of Finance, till the late 1980s, officials, and family were paid travel expenses to visit home or village once in two years. The official had to use their earned leave or casual leave to travel to their villages. From the 1990s the leave travel concession was paid as a lump sum annually.

He said, for now, the fixed lump sum LTC rate is Nu15,000 for each person and is applicable to all officials who receive their salary from the government including the Members of the Parliament.

As per Section 9 of the Bhutan Civil Service Rules and regulations (BCSR) 2018, “The employee shall only be eligible for LTC after rendering a minimum of one year of service. LTC shall be paid once in a financial year with a maximum ceiling as per existing financial rules”. Other conditions for eligibility of LTC are in the BCSR, 2018. The maximum ceiling for now is Nu 15,000 per year and all the civil servants, irrespective of the positions are entitled to Nu 15,000 annually.

“LTC is designed for officials to visit their village. TA/DSA on the other hand is a payment to meet travel, food, and lodge expenses for carrying out official assignments away from the designated place of work.”

According to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), the government has to pay about Nu 500mn annually as LTC every year.

“However, all public servants including civil servants, irrespective of positions are eligible for Nu 15,000 as LTC. It is expected to benefit all,” said the official from MoF. With the COVID-19 impacting the country’s economy, the government has identified seven temporary budget policy measures to meet the recurrent expenditure for the fiscal year 2020 – 21.

Tenzin Lhamo from Thimphu