De facto increase

The National Assembly’s decision to increase the salaries of MPs has caused widespread public outrage. Rightfully so. Not one person has registered support for the pay increase in any of the online discussion forums, including this blog where, in my last entry, I had suggested that the pay increase could be illegal. Since then, I’ve been thinking about another matter that the Government will soon have to deal with.

After several ministers had argued that the salaries of MPs had to be increased, and increased to salary levels of Secretaries, one minister proposed to increase the salaries of Secretaries too. That minister then helpfully explained that the salaries for MPs would increase correspondingly to equal the new increased salaries of Secretaries.

And so the National Assembly resolved to increase the salaries of Government Secretaries too. But, who are the Government Secretaries entitled to this sudden raise? Are they only the ten Secretaries, one in each of the ten ministries? What if some of them are not currently in EX1A (i.e., Grade 1)? What about the Cabinet Secretary? And the Secretaries Generals of the National Council and National Assembly? The GNH Commission Secretary? The Land Commission Secretary? The Secretary to His Majesty? The head of the NEC (currently, still a “deputy minister”)? Will they, and others, also be entitled to the raise?

And what about all the other civil servants already in Grade 1 – the doctors, engineers, teachers and other bureaucrats? Will their salaries also be increased?

 

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  1. What about the Peon?
    What about the driver?
    What about the security guard?
    What about the cook?
    What about the clerk?
    What about the messenger boy?
    What about the receptionist?
    What about the typist?
    What about the sweeper?
    What about .. or rather.. Where about GNH?

    Cost of living has risen. Very true. But these low paid under-appreciated people are bearing the brunt right now. Almost 80 % of their salaries go into house rents. The rest is used to feed their kids and send them to school.
    And the leaders take their salaries to discuss in national sittings how to increase their pays at unimaginable rates? This is ridiculous!
    Tell them to step down if they can’t work for the current salaries. There are many (and more capable ones) willing to fill it in for them. This happens when people get fat and lazy over fat pay checks. Skim it instead, and they will put in more effort, demand less and work with true loyalty.
    Enough is Enough! And these MPs..?
    Let’s recap.
    What have they not gotten so far?
    (Was it in the last session?) But all I read about the outcome of their meetings were; Salaries for MPs, Kabneys, residences, cars (I was literally laughing when they could not decide whether to take the car or the money), driver allowances.. and there are more I lost track of.
    I am beginning to think this whole democracy thing was a funny scam. A joke where the poor are kept dreaming and the rich got away with whatever meagre money the government had.
    Watch my words, these people will one day bankrupt Bhutan.

  2. Oh, and I would very much like to know when they will discuss :

    Unemployment Insurance
    Crop and livestock insurance
    Disability Resources
    Disaster Assistance for Victims
    Dislocated and laid off workers assistance
    Employment and Training Assistance
    Farm ownership and operating loans
    Food Stamps and other Nutrition Assistance Programs
    Government Benefits
    Government online services (Save time to do it)
    Home Mortgage and Housing Assistance
    Senior Citizen
    Social security
    …. I can come up with more when they are done with the above.

  3. With a speaker like Jigme Tshultrim, and the current flock of useless ministers, I cannot expect anything more. All of them are theorists, none practitioners, including our PM, an eminent professor of GNH. The have their brain in their pockets.

    As for our MPs, I wont be surprised if they propose to attack China over the border dispute or to boycott India over the rupee crunch situation, seriously I wont be surprised.

    Do something Hon’ble OL, this is not we expected from democracy.

  4. This salary increase will bring about exponential hike in price of commodities and other services/utilities. It may be that we gotta have separate shopping stores for MPs.We could call it the ‘MP Shopping Colony’ so that other citizens are not affected by the ‘good fortune’ of few.

  5. On Bhutan Observer, I saw that the ministers quarters is going to the cost atleast half a billion to the government and 31 acres of land.
    While the new hospital cost around 917 million and 8 acres of land for 350 beds. Looks like instead of spending 475 million on ministers quarters, we could have used that money to build atleast 175 bed hospitals.
    http://www.bhutanobserver.bt/2009/featured-stories/12/the-view-from-sangaygang.html

  6. Dear OL,
    who was that greedy bulged belly lyoenpo?
    whole forum is full with the pay raise for MPs.whole people are against the decision.if its so,why do we need to concern about our unique democrazy,better lead street protest like every democrazy do in the world.
    it was too early for democrazy.i prefer the monachy.
    GOD BLESS U PEOPLE!!!
    otherwise bhutan will be ruined.

  7. To be frank I was expecting that the MPs will give us a “Big surprise” and even told my friends that it could be about some kind of incentives. And there you are the increase in Salary. It was expected and I am not surprised but I am confused about their so called heavy and important responsibilities of Law Making.

    My request to the MPs is to follow the Law since they are the Law Makers. And not to equate themselves with Secretaries of the Govt.. MPs are Politicians and Sec. are Senior Civil servants.

    To conclude let us uphold the Constitution of our Country. Remember therefore, that there is a constitutional body called the PAY COMMISSION.

  8. And so the MP’s make noise about the DHI remunerations when their own was quitely and illegally announced and accepted.

  9. Kencho Tshering says:

    I wonder why our PM and for that matter the government is silent when every citizens participating in the various online forum are expressing their true grievances and dissatisfaction over the hidden & hijacked decision of pay raise for the MPs. It is a matter of extreme concern for me as a true citizen of this nation.
    We wish the OL has some means to bring up this issue to the highest level, even to the HM to nullify this decision of pay raise of the MPs which they truely do not deserve. We the people of Bhutan knows who these MPs are and their capability, their root and what they are before being elected as MP. The fact that more than 200 respondents in the various online forum and more than 10,000 people in the streets, bars, hotels, shops, offices, buses, taxes, private cars, hospitals, banks, chortens, cremation ground, etc. outrageously against the pay raise of the MP’s is a clear reflection of our people’s appeal to the government that the decision should be nullified immediately.

  10. Hon OL,
    I think this is an important issue where we tend to have an oversight. The contention of the issue on pay raise is actually not on pay raise but on the failure of systematizing the pay-scale as per the structure of the social hierarchy. We have two options-either distribute the GDP equally amongst the Bhutanese Citizen, which is very rationale but not possible as the failure of socialism stands as an evidence and also the risk that it might snub human’s creativity and innovation which has made capitalism an acceptable ideology at the moment; and the other option we have is the normal structure that is being practised throughout the world. In this structure the Head of the Government(Leaving HM aside) should be the one receiving the highest salary followed by the Ministers and so on.
    In this structure I say that the MPs are higher than the secretaries or the constitutional post holders and MPs should be getting a higher salary than them and the online arguers deny them merely on the ground that they are young and fresh graduates, which is a fallacy- a mistake in reasoning. The Legislative body is the topmost body in the system and anyone appointed in the post of a legislative members has a direct contribution to policy making that affects you and I and the country as a whole. So should we deny our MPs a salary higher than the secretaries after all in the structure of a government the MPs are higher than them. If we don’t correct this right now the issue will loom again in the future. Our argument based on a premise that “MPs are fresh graduates and receiving say “60 thousand” does not make sense is an invalid argument.” If they are not worth it, the fault is not theirs but ours. We elected them. And in refusing the MPs a salary higher than the Secretaries on the ground mentioned above, we are also discouraging our capable people like PM, the ministers, OL and other worthy MPs from both the parliaments in the task of legislating policies. Another example, Gasa MP from PDP, Damchoe, a former OAG is now going to get a tinge of regret if the salary of OAG is higer than him becuase he wouldn’t see any reason to aspire for becoming an MP if MP is lower than OAG or Secretaries. Hence, I say that MPs salary should be greater than a civil servant, otherwise there is no reason for any sound person to dream of becoming an MP.
    On an inspiring note, so far from my observation we are treading on a safer path: there is transparency, we hear Dokchok Lynpo tongue lashing them now and then to check the ruling party’s conscience. The guts of OL often intimidating them is a good sign that in the light of rationality we are all free and need not cower under irrationale policies or commands.
    To sum up, the Legislative body needs to systematize the salary and also take into account the salary disparity, between civil servants, DHI and other corporations. If we don’t solve this now this will always remain an issue and some of us will be FREE RIDERS, which is very unethical.

    • Dear Deki,

      Thanks for your clarification. I am one person who sees the members of parliament above the secretaries if not at par with them. However I think that the pay commission already took care of this in its proposal but the government foolishly (the DPT MPs should I say) made changes – only to become a hypocrisy this time. MPs and the experienced ministers should have known that the members of pay commission constituted of qualified professionals unlike most members of DPT. I believe social hierarchy in the system was therefore maintained in the pay commission’s proposal. Even the pay scale for civil servants was reasonable given the living cost especially in the capital. You must know the price of the commodities in the market is no less for a low rung civil servant, and we are paying sky rocketed house rents whereas the MPs get housing allowances – There was not a single discussion on house rent, government quarters, or tenancy acts, etc. because that doesn’t benefit an MP?
      The question now is – MPs have increased their salary according to the pay commission’s proposal, is the government going to increase the salary of the civil servants as recommended by the pay commission? Is it ethical on the part of MPs if its not done?

  11. Someone rightly had mentioned that the earlier proposal of increase in the pay scale of civil servants was turned down on the grounds of the world financial crisis, amongst others and the likely impact on Bhutan’s economy. Accepted. Now, how is that the current increase of the MPs pay, is not, in any way, going to impact in similar way, had the former was approved? This is a ridiculous decision of our MPs.

    I think, they are entrusted to deliberate on more important issues that affect the people of Bhutan than their entitlements. It is clear to us that their entitlements are top priority whereas issues such as health care, education, unemployment, agriculture, poverty etc are least.

    Getting paid Nu. 50000/- per month without doing anything or for that matter without concrete contribution is not a matter of joke. We need result-based performances from them and if there are numerous examples of such contribution to nation, we don’t care! Just sitting in the hall, enjoying the tenure and finally going with a hefty “money” in your pocket seriously concerns us. It is our contribution, it is the people’s contribution and we have the right to be heard and concerned. Deciding behind closed doors and ripping nation’s wealth surely foretells the future for our country.

    I don’t know who has the authority in such instances to either prevent or initiate deliberation for justification of such unreasonable raise.

    God save this nation!

  12. Here’s what I saw in BhutanTimes.com forum. Looks like there is more to it than meets the eye.

    End of Multi-Party Democracy: The real reason behind the raise in MPs salary!

    Last week, our MPs, Ministers, and the Speaker sat quietly behind closed doors of the National Assembly and passed a historic decision for another raise to the MPs salary within just about a year. This is an important milestone and history will remember this as the beginning of the end of multi-party democracy in Bhutan.

    I am just an ordinary person and I am nobody. But I care deeply for this nation’s future. I think there is a hidden agenda behind the parliament’s decision to raise the MPs salary. I think it is DPT’s secret strategy to indirectly provide government funding to their Party. They don’t want PDP or any new political parties in future to have access to government funding. Here’s what they are going to do: secretly and indirectly, all the DPT MPs will give the net increase in their salary to their Party.

    Together with the CDG, I think, this is DPT’s overall strategy to end multi-party democracy and to rule the country forever – by hook or crook. Looking at the result of last election, the way they defeated PDP, and the way our checks and balance institutions and responsible individuals maintain silence on such critical issues, I have no doubt that DPT will be successful in achieving this goal too.

    Let us look at how DPT carefully planned and prepared for this. First of all they banned BBS live telecast of the NA sessions. Then, in order to prevent opposition from the NC, they, very smartly, used some greedy NC MPs to introduce the proposal from the NC side. As some people pointed out in this forum, they didn’t even include this in the agenda of the present NA session. But suddenly they brought it up at the end of the session to make it look like an ad-hoc decision and, by not allowing a proper debate, they quickly passed the resolution. DPT’s core group must have spent a lot of time putting together this brilliant strategy. And like their election campaign strategy, I don’t think most DPT MPs know anything about this Plan even now. What I cannot understand is this: even with such majority, why is DPT feeling so insecure that they have to resort to such unconstitutional practices like CDG, indirect govt. funding of their Party, media intimidation, etc..

    Now let us look at some inevitable consequences of this historic decision.

    1. While DPT with indirect government funding will become very strong, PDP will be compelled to declare bankruptcy (it’s just a matter of time).

    2. With PDP gone, Bhutan will truly have a “unique” Democracy – a Democracy with no opposition party!

    3. It will become impossible to form new political parties with DPT enjoying such unfair advantages.

    4. Bhutan will be stuck with all the half-baked MPs of DPT forever.

    5. For the 2013 election, DPT will secretly form a separate political party from within their party to just fulfill the requirements of the election act.

    6. With concentration of all power in few hands in combination with a weak media, ineffective and unprofessional democratic institutions and judiciary, Bhutan may end up with a kind of democracy that’s being practiced in places like Zimbabwe, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Given the above, one can easily imagine all other consequences that would follow from the above situation: large scale corruption, inequality, injustice, dictatorship, violence, nepotism, favoritism, extreme poverty, polarization, oppression, and so on. Looking at what’s happening in places like Zimbabwe, we can get an idea of what people, with too much of power, is capable of doing – all in the name of democracy.

    The true success of democracy depends on sharing of power, not on concentration of power in few hands. What makes me sad is the fact that democracy in Bhutan came from our beloved Kings. People are already referring to our fourth King as the father of democracy in Bhutan. If democracy fails, it is going to be a permanent black spot in both K4 and K5’s legacy. All the good intentions and hard work of our Kings will go to waste.

    I know I am just one voice and it’s not going to make any difference. As usual, people will talk about it for a while and soon it will be forgotten. I also know people from DPT and their hard core supporters will gang up against me. But it’s okay. I will at least have a clear conscience. Years from now, I can say to myself, I knew this was coming and as a concerned citizen, I tried to warn my fellow citizens. Some may even say that I am a coward and that I should come out in the open and protest. I may be a coward, but I am not a fool. We all know where I will end up if I did so. Some people may think that my assumptions are all wrong. And I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, hope and pray that I am “Wrong.”

    I confess that I made a mistake and played a role in helping DPT win the election with such a landslide – including the election of many undeserving DPT MPs while destroying the life and career of so many good PDP candidates. But I don’t want to let DPT fool me again. As they say: “you fool me once, shame on YOU. You fool me twice, shame on ME.”

    Look at the hypocrisy of our elected leaders. While publicly saying that democracy is a precious jewel and gift from our Kings, in private they are making preparation for a one-party dictatorship!

    At the end of the day, unless there is an intervention from the highest level nothing is going to change. As usual DPT will continue to ignore people’s voices. And as usual, our watch dog institutions and people who matter will shamelessly remain silent. But today, I, an ordinary person, feel better for having shared my concerns and thoughts with you in this forum. I don’t know about you, but I cannot remain silent while my children and my nation’s future is being destroyed by the selfish politicians. I think we are heading down a dangerous path. God save our nation and our children’s future!!!

  13. I saw the following nice article below by Rabgyel on kuzuzangpo.com dated December 11, 2009.

    DPT’s MP second pay hike decision- a GNH black hole

    I had posted an article here titled “Beyond the perk and patang” about a year ago, supporting the MPs for reasonable perks and benefits befitting their standing in society. And I meant that the perks and benefits should be strictly reasonable then. And so, now, in the wake of the recent decision by the DPT (DPT as it is almost a unanimous DPT consensus) to raise the MP’s pay, I feel obliged to take it as a personal responsibility to register a protest against the decision. DPT has provided reasons to justify the unreasonable hike. But there is a limit to reason too.

    The message from the proponents of the green movement to Obama on his Nobel Peace Prize applies, although with a slight paraphrase, to the recent DPT decision on the salary hike for the MPs too- they have passed it, but have they earned it and is it timely appropriate? This could well be a subject for another debate, however. But come 2013 and it shall be the time to take stock of things.

    Further, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that “History can tell us a great deal about lost opportunities,” as a reply to concerns that the prize is too early for Mr. Obama. The world would surely lose an opportunity in not recognizing a gem of a man. But back home, what opportunities would have awaited us had the pay hike decision not been passed now- we would have had the opportunity of not letting people think that money is shaping our democracy; we would have had the opportunity to instilling in the mind of every MP that self-contentment is very much at the heart of our GNH; we would have had the opportunity of being a unique democracy where people do not see perks and benefits as a precondition to serving one’s nation.

    Coming to the decision, DPT is committing two mistakes at its own peril through it. First, what they have done is a parody of good governance. Second, the decision sends out a dangerously wrong signal that inordinate payment is ‘necessary’ to ‘attract’ ‘capable’ people to fill the post of an MP.

    The Minister for Ministry of Economics Affairs justifies the current decision on MP’s salary hike as being well within the last recommendation of the Pay Commission. This leads to a more ethical question as to whether the parliament has the right to set a bad example by bypassing a set of rules already enshrined in the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 2008. If his argument is to be given a nod, don’t we think the treatment then should apply even to the civil service and other sectors too. As a corollary, the decision will not only set a bad precedent but will have implications that will only demoralize people. That is why I would call the DPT decision a GNH black hole.

    The Parliamentary Entitlements Act clearly indicates that a National Committee will have to be formed to advice the Pay Commission on matters concerning parliamentary entitlements. Further it says, “No laws shall vary the scales and structure of salary, allowances and other benefits and other emoluments for the services of the members of the parliament, unless the proposal is tabled by the Pay Commission,” not by the National Council. So then what made the DPT to single-handedly bulldoze the decision?

    The DPT will have to lead by example, since they are the majority in the parliament. They have to show to the people that good governance runs on a set of established rules and code of ethics and that these must be respected both inside and outside of parliament.

    When Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba supported the proposal saying, “In order to lay good foundation of democracy in the country, we need the most capable ones to become MPs. Without giving them good remuneration we cannot attract such talents to participate in politics.” This is the order of the day and there are no two ways about it. This though might be applicable in general to corporate offices and organizations that are in pursuit of increasing their shareholder values. But, on a second thought, this is a septic notion. Isn’t this against our very GNH idea of reducing materialism? We cannot afford to play both ends against the middle? This calls on us to breakaway from the tradition at some point of time and see if it is applicable to institutions such as our parliament.

    Are we letting money to shape our democracy? If we are to bargain with MPs using money as both the tool and technique, and not their passion to serve the country, and if the MPs drive a hard bargain despite the state going to the most reasonable extent, stretching all its resources to their limits, then we might as well not have the deal at all. What is the use, after all, of having MPs trying to strike a deal with the trust of the people? Today, ask an MP how much he is paid. The reply will not be in the exact format you would have expected. But it will be prepared in such a way that the answer fits his position as an MP- that money is not what he is working for? So, why not take his answer seriously and keep things simple.

    John F Kennedy’s declaration decades ago rings true not only for students and office goers, soldiers and civilians, doctors and engineers, but for our MPs too- Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country. If at all someone has decided to take part in our democracy as an MP, it should be because of his love for the country and his fidelity to the principles central to the nation’s foundation, and not because the job pays more than what he currently earns. If we need to attract good and dedicated people, who have nation’s wellbeing in their heart, we don’t need to pay them inordinately for they will never be unreasonable. They would even stand up to anything that seems unreasonable and inappropriate.

    Those who are to lead the nation as MPs must do so, on the basis of values and attitudes that our ancestors have passed on to us and which we expect our posterity to emulate. The society must reward those elected as MPs as this is an acknowledgment in itself of the fact that they are the fine men and women of our society. So they do need to be paid something reasonably higher then most people at appropriate times and through appropriate systems. But the way things are, the likelihood of people eying at an MP’s post as an alternative to strike it rich and not as a scared opportunity to serve our nation stands tall. That would be unfortunate.

    Instead of the salary hike, MPs should be given the necessary authority. The state has already endowed them with the required authority in the form of patang and titles to ensure the post is vested with such eminence and significance as befits their role as important players in our democracy. It is through their authority and the respect that they earn through the rightful use of such authorities, and not through inordinate salaries paid to them, that they will be better equipped to promote the cause of our democracy.

    As for the National Council, it can only be blamed for having precipitated the debate itself. It was only a year ago that an approval for the MPs salary hike was passed. The fact that people elected them to honour the nation’s scared responsibilities should have given them the necessary wisdom to understand that the proposal could have been deferred until some other appropriate time.

    People see no justification when an NC member says, “The amount of expenses incurred every time we visit the rural areas is immense,” and, “that is why we proposed for the increase.” They, through the Parliamentary Entitlements Act 2008, are already provided adequate allowances to cover their trip including, inter alia, a daily subsistence allowance and even something that is against all financial principles, a discretionary allowance! This then gives people to wonder what other expenses remain to be covered when he expresses a concern over “immense” expenditure for a trip to a rural area. This again is a serious question too.

    No MP stood up to speak a word against the proposal, even at least something to the extent of deferring the proposal, if not slam it lock, stock and barrel. This is sad and it only behooves us to exercise “caveat emptor“ in accepting whom we select as our MPs.

    If at all there has been a growing concern about our democracy, it is that of it coming under constant assaults from within our own community, mainly peppered with issues such as this. It may not be appropriate to put it as a temptation on their part, but the MPs will have to appreciate that the people have been very reasonable in allowing them to have whatever they have asked for so far. For this time, people are only disappointed that they are asking for another meal when they have had one just an hour ago. They must first go to the field and work, digest what they have eaten. And then,people will make sure that when they return, they can enjoy a scrumptious supper too.

    Posted on 11 Dec 2009 by Rabgyel

  14. Equity and Justice (SHAME) says:

    I am utterly disappointed and disgusted that our MPs can rob the nation in broad daylight and there is no recourse for us to stop such a terrible thing in this land of GNH. I think the PM’s idea of GNH is only happiness for his MPs and cronies. I am not going to debate on the worthiness of our MPs to be in the highest legistative body in the country, as we all know how much most of them are worth in terms of fighting for the rights and interests of the poor people who elected them with trust and misplaced confidence in them. However, I would like to appeal to our greedy half baked MPs to not be carried away by sky high egos and feel that you have to get rich at the cost of the nation and its people. Enough is enough and dont radicalize our peaceful population with such self centered decisions at the peril of the majority. Have conscience and be rationale and really question oneself how much one contibuted to the nation and its people to take away so much from them.

    God save the country…

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