Educating the centre

rangtse-schoolGakiling has 13 villages. Some of the poorest parts of our country can be found in this cluster of villages that lie along the remote parts of upstream Amochu. Together, the 13 villages have just one school – Rangtse Community School, which opened two years ago after Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck visited the area.

None of the villages is connected by car road. Most don’t even have mule tracks. So the school in Rangtse is not accessible to children living in other villages. And the children can’t live in Rangtse, because the school does not have boarding facilities.

Naturally, the people of Gakiling are anxious. They want schools. They need schools. But they have no idea if their needs will be met during the 10th Plan. They have no idea because no one consulted them.

Education used to be decentralized. And local governments could decide, within the overall education policies and guidelines, where to build their schools. But this is no longer the case. The entire education system will be planned and executed by the centre. That must be the case, because the centre – the education ministry, in this case – has been allocated all the money. And local governments have been given nothing, not even one ngultrum, to develop education in their communities.

During the 10th Plan the Education Ministry will receive Nu 9.5 billion for capital investments alone. Compare this to what has been earmarked for the 20 dzongkhags – Nu 7.2 billion for all their activities; or what has been given to the 205 gewogs combined – just Nu 4.8 billion.

This makes the education ministry very powerful. But its power comes at a high price: decentralization is suspended, and local government is suppressed. That’s not good. Local governments, after all, understand the aspirations of their people better than any expert in Thimphu. And they have much more at stake.

For now, the people of Gakiling are at the mercy of the centre. So are the people of Sombaykha, another gewog with no road and only one proper school. Both, Gakiling and Sombaykha are in my constituency.

What’s centralized

Consider this: Nu 38.32 billion had been budgeted for capital investments in the 9th Five Year Plan. Of that, Nu 9.32 billion had been budgeted for the dzongkhags and gewogs. That was about 24.37% of the total capital outlay.

Now consider this: Nu 73.61 billion has been budgeted for capital investments in the 10th Five Year Plan. Of this, Nu 12 billion has been budgeted for the dzongkhags and gewogs. That is only 16.30% of the total capital outlay.

In 2002, after two decades of decentralization, the government was prepared to earmark almost a quarter of the total capital outlay to Local Governments.

Today, with democracy, the government should be giving proportionately more to Local Governments. In fact, at only 16.30% it’s preparing to give less. A lot less.

This reeks of centralization.

We need to reconsider how resources are distributed. We need to seriously reconsider our priorities.

What’s decentralised

Consider this: each minister would enjoy entitlements and benefits totaling about Nu 9,942,000 during the 10th Five Year Plan period. This is at current pay scales. (See my conservative estimates towards the end).

Now consider this: 40 gewogs would each get capital funds amounting to less than Nu 9,942,000 each during the 10th Five Year Plan period. This is according to what has been budgeted in the draft 10th Five Year Plan. Three of them (Soe, Samrang and Khatoe) would not even get Nu 3 million each for the entire 10th Plan period – in other words, each of these gewogs would get less than one-third of what a minister would earn.

Then consider this: each minister would enjoy entitlements and benefits totaling about Nu 13,842,000 during the 10th Five Year Plan period if the Pay Commission’s proposal is accepted.

And consider this: 70 gewogs would get less than Nu 13,842,000 during the entire 10th Five Year Plan period. That means that 70 of the 205 gewogs would get less money each for capital works during the 10th Plan than what a minister would earn during the same period.

True: Education, health and rural electrification are not included in the gewog budgets. And true, the dzongkahgs and central ministries would have additional programs that would benefit gewogs.

Also true: people in the gewogs would be mainly concerned about money that they would have real control over. That is the funds that have been budgeted for their respective gewogs. And there may be 70 gewogs, each having access to less money than what one minister may earn.

……………………………………………….

(A) Current entitlements and benefits of ministers (including PM, Chief Justice, Speaker, Chairman of NC and Opposition Leader):

1. Salary: Nu 78,000
2. Housing: Nu 23,400 (30% of salary)
3. Telephone: Nu 5000
4. Electricity and water: say Nu 3000 (actual)
5. Discretionary grant: Nu 8,300 (Nu 100,000 a year)
6. Prado: say Nu 33,000 (new Prado costs Nu 2,000,000. Assuming ministers keep it after five years, monthly benefit is 2,000,000/5/12 = Nu 33,000)
7. Fuel: say Nu 10,000
8. Driver: Nu 5,000

Total benefit = Nu 165,700 per month or Nu 1,988,400 per year or Nu 9,942,000 for five years

(B) Entitlements and benefits proposed by Pay Commission for ministers (including Chief Justice, Speaker, Chairman of NC and Opposition Leader; PM would get more):

1. Salary: Nu 130,000
2. Housing: Nu 26,000 (20% of salary)
3. Telephone: Nu 5000
4. Electricity and water: say Nu 3000 (actual)
5. Discretionary grant: Nu 16,700 (Nu 200,000 a year)
6. Prado: say Nu 33,000 (new Prado costs Nu 2,000,000. Assuming ministers keep it after five years, monthly benefit is 2,000,000/5/12 = Nu 33,000)
7. Fuel: say Nu 10,000
8. Driver: Nu 7,000

Total benefit = Nu 230,700 per month or Nu 2,768,400 per year or Nu 13,842,000 for five years