The Raise to bolster the Rise

For long, most Bhutanese civil servants have not been leading a normal life. They were stressed as colleagues voluntarily resigned or left for extraordinary leave. There wasn’t any reason for celebration, until today, June 9, 2023, as the Pay Commission announced the pay revision, which many say is more than what they expected. They can at-least lead a decent life.

An interesting subject to watch would be the “Australia Rush.” Yes! The raise is nowhere near what one can earn in Australia. Civil servants in the P2 to the chief levels would now be drawing a salary somewhere between Nu 50,000 to Nu 70,000 a month. One can even earn double of this in Australia. But there are opportunity costs. There will be no executive chairs waiting for you. You cannot dine and wine at official gatherings or offer lemon tea to a friend who visits you in your office. You will not be a chief or a program officer. You are just a number – TFN 19760. You cannot give suggestions for a problem or an issue. Apart from few exceptions, you cannot contribute in any way to the community you live in.

Some civil servants who were waiting for the pay revision, before packing their bags have decided to stay back. Perhaps they made a good decision. Perhaps, they may regret later.

For a very long time and even now, the civil service has been the profession of choice. Every graduate aspires to be a civil servant, with the expectation to resign one day as a “Dasho.” However, the monthly cheque they received was not enough to even cover their basic needs. Many junior civil servants cited this as the reason for taking the long flights to Australia and Canada. The new entrants will now be earning more than 33,000 per month. Thus, gaps created by those who embarked for greener pastures could be filled.        

With the revision, those at the ESP and GSP levels will earn anywhere between Nu 16,650 to Nu 18,285 per month. They are the manual workers who have little or no opportunities to fly from Bhutan. The Pay Commission has been very rational here.

“Generous” is the word used by most civil servants when asked about the raise. Generous because they did not expect a huge raise and generous mainly because it comes at a juncture when the nation’s economy is not as healthy as it used to be.

While taking about generosity, most also spoke about increased responsibilities. It is simple economics. You ought to work more if you are paid more. And even before the raise, our civil servants have done this; taking additional responsibilities, multi tasking and filling the gaps.

We wouldn’t call the salary raise as the solution to issues confronted by civil servants and the country. But it is definitely the beginning and a potent measure to assist our King, who continues to burn the midnight oil every night. The raise ought to make everyone rise above the ordinary.

“The civil service is the strongest in terms of numbers, investment, skills, and experience. Therefore, the greatest responsibilities towards nation building fall on the civil servants.” His Majesty the King.