I am encouraged to know that the 4th Pay Commission has been constituted, although there is no requirement under the Constitution that every new government should establish a Pay Commission. But this is a wise political move. Whatever recommendations the Pay Commission comes up with, the government will be blameless. And, quite obviously, the Commission won’t be looking at reasons why the salaries and emoluments of the civil/public servants should be halved. They would want to look at justifications for recommending an all round increase in salaries and emoluments of the civil/public servants.
Here is where I feel sorry for the Members of the Commission. In my mind, the only way they can approach the subject will be based on the following three considerations:
1. State of the nation’s economy
3. Fall or rise in the civil/public servants’ efficiency and productivity
It will not be based on the state of the economy – because the country’s economy is in the doldrums. Thus, if economy were to be a determining factor, a reduction in salary is called for.
Historically, civil/public servants’ salary increase has been the biggest driver of inflation – every time government increased the salary of the civil/public servants, inflation hit the roof. Thus, as a measure to rein in inflation, it is important to keep the civil/public servants’ salary in check – quite the antithesis to the objectives of the exercise of the 4th Pay Commission.
The last consideration would have to be made based on the fall or rise of the civil/public servants’ level of efficiency and productivity. And here there is no room for ambiguity – if the Commission Members were to recommend for an increase in the salary of the civil/public servants based on the merit of their efficiency and productivity, the Commission Members would have to be charged in the courts, for treason to the TsaWa Sum.
It is a foregone conclusion that the Commission would want to recommend for an enhancement in the salaries and emoluments of the civil/public servants. Thus let us not bang our heads against an eventuality that is as certain as day and night. Instead, let us try and be imaginative – as to how we may offset the burden that will be brought to bear on the remaining 600,000 of the none-civil servant population of the country.
One sure way of paying for the pay increase is by: DOING AWAY WITH THE UNFAIR QUOTA SYSTEM that is currently in place.
According to The Bhutanese newspaper, the Royal Government of Bhutan losses a staggering Nu.212 million in tax revenues – just on 56 Toyota Prados issued to the MP’s – duty and tax free! As opposed to that, His Majesty the King calculates that there are 54,000 civil/public servants. Thus if we were to do away with the Duty and Tax exemptions on those 56 Prados, the additional tax and duty collection could mean that the Pay Commission could recommend an annual salary increase of Nu. 4,000.00 for each of the 54,000 civil/public servants.
That is not the end. Some section of the Bhutanese society is given duty free quota of vehicles, chocolates, perfumes, canned sausages, alcoholic beverages etc. If we were to do away with this quota system as well, we would be looking at additional collection of over Nu.300 million in tax and duty revenues. With the combined collection of Nu.212 + Nu.300 million, the total would amount to Nu.512 million. Divide this total amount evenly among 54,000 civil/public servants and the Pay Commission could safely recommend an annual pay increase of Nu. 9,500.00 for every one of the 54,000 civil/public servants – without causing a single chetrums loss to the exchequer.
Bhutan is a subsistence economy – we do not have the financial wherewithal to squander way hundreds of millions in unjustified quota gifts;
It is not fair that a motley of individuals are segregated to receive preferential treatment while the majority of the population are required to pay for their quota benefits;
The quota system perpetuates immorality/lawlessness among the supposedly civil/public servants. It is at the very core of the Bhutanese moral turpitude.
I see that the recently constituted Pay Commission is comprised of some really ethical persons of proven capability. The head of the government – the incumbent Prime Minister Dr. LotayTshering – he comes off as a person with clarity in his thoughts. To me it seems like we have a winning team – to enter the history books as a team that did what is needed to be done – that which is good for the country and the people of Bhutan.
For once, please put the country above and beyond your political considerations and personal interests. Be the heroes that others have dared not be. Do not leave the hard decisions to the King alone all the time – those of you who are charged with the responsibility to take decisions —- please have the courage to do so.
Seize the day – Carpe Diem!
The writer is an ardent blogger and a Charter Member of the Rotary Club of Thimphu.