Is standard of FLT enough for LGs?

The FLT is a basic literacy test conducted to test the speaking and writing skills of local leaders

The 12th Five Year Plan has further empowered the members of the Local Governments (LGs) in planning, budgeting and release of funds, which begs the question whether a simple Functional Literacy Test (FLT) is adequate to assess their competency in shouldering such a significant national responsibility?     

In the light of this new development, not to mention the 50% of the national budget provided as block grants to the LGs, many people that Business Bhutan talked to feel that it is high time to upgrade and standardize the mandatory FLT to raise the competency level of the aspiring local leaders. 

The FLT is a basic literacy test conducted to test the basic speaking and writing skills of local leaders.

With enormous funds at their disposal, many question whether LG leaders are proficient enough to implement the budget productively, considering many do not have the required financial expertise.

The Director of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) Secretariat Service, Phub Dorji said that so far his office did not face any issue regarding the incompetency of the LG members, which had led to the failure in the implementation of the LG budget.

 “Though there are many graduates in the urban areas, there is none participating from the remote gewogs and chiwog in the country,” he said, adding that in the 2011 LG elections, 3,75 demkhongs were without any candidate to contest.

He cited that during the Tshogpa election in Thimphu Thromde, there was only one candidate, who was also disqualified because of his affiliation to a political party.

“If we raise the qualification or the standard of the FLT, many gewogs and chiwogs would be left without any candidate,” he said.

Meanwhile, the FLT is conducted by the ECB under Section 21(d) of the Election Act which states that a person will be qualified to be elected as a member of a Local Government, if he or she is functionally literate and possesses skills adequate to discharge his/her responsibilities as certified by the Election Commission of Bhutan or possessing a formal degree in the case of candidates for Thrompon.

“Until the Act is amended, the commission cannot change it and there is no need to upgrade the standard of the FLT,” Phub Dorji added.

Aspiring candidates should be well versed in skills like reading, writing, listening and analytics, besides being able to read and write in Dzongkha, analyzing and answering questions on basic mathematics. There is also a viva round where they can express their personal thoughts.

“When compared to the school standard, it would not be below class six or seven level. But in terms of the analytical part, the standard is much higher,” Phub Dorji explained.

However, he painted a very positive picture in the light of the changing times, a scenario in which good incentives for aspiring LG leaders could attract more graduates and educated candidates, making the FLT obsolete.  

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Centre for Local Governance and Research, Tharchen, explained that since the ECB Act doesn’t allow raising the academic qualification, the only option is upgrade the standard of the FLT. 

With the LG leaders due to complete their tenure next month, 3,637 aspiring candidates, 724 of females, have already registered for the FLT with the ECB for the third LG elections.

So far the ECB has issued 8,000 FLT certificates.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu