Bhutanese democracy is less than a decade old. And within this short span of time we have already seen the power and potentialities actors playing their part in the field can wield notwithstanding the pitfalls they are prone to.
One strong criticism the ruling government has received so far is that of its so-called failure to stick to its decisions. Recent cases in point being the Taxi Operating Permit and the Ada Rachu. In both these instances, it seemed the government made decisions in haste and even more hastily withdrew their implementation when the public and affected groups raised their voices.
Seeing that decisions at the national level concern not only the ones making them, but to a greater extent, those whom they represent, it is not a matter of light concern to continue passing decisions and retract them at the whim and fancy of the decision makers. The decisions affect national interests. Therefore, it is the responsibility of policy makers to ensure that a period of focused and detailed research, planning and discussions prelude a decision.
While the fact that the people including lobby groups are speaking out and voicing their concerns is a sign of fostering and growth of a healthy democracy, on the extreme, we might see the folly of a handful of government planners and implementers resulting in the failure to maintain cohesion and unity at the national and individual level through discrepancies and loopholes in its policies and plans. And even more so by their tiptoeing around areas that require swift and firm decisiveness.
Such imprudent moves would have widespread ramifications: while the people voted for the government expecting that it would work towards the national interest, the opposite could happen with divisive factors and factions coming into the picture. Pleasing and being at the beck and call of lobby groups who would pursue personal interests would affect the greater good of the nation and the people, impeding growth, progress and development.
Loss of faith in a government could come as a severe blow to the institution of democracy which has come at a great cost in Bhutan including sacrifice from the Monarchs.
The scariest part of such pandering to public interests is that it could result in pork-barrel politics. The government of the day would be so desperate to please the public that it would shake every time a howl of protest went up the crowds irrespective of the rationale on which the decision is based. In fact, this would set a very unhealthy precedent in Bhutanese democracy.
Yes, we understand that even policy makers are human. They will make mistakes but what we are talking about here is making every possible effort to avoid a mistake. A careless mistake is not justified, especially if repeated. We need to create a safety net – of proper ground works, research, and filtering to catch an unwise decision before it makes it to the public domain. For a decision made now can affect generations afterwards and so does a decision rescinded.