Missing incentives


Two months ago, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Information and Communication, and the Tourism Council of Bhutan signed “performance compacts” with the Prime Minister. The contracts outlined important work that the agencies would do during the next three years, and set specific targets that they would have to achieve.

Some countries – India, France, Kenya, and Malaysia are examples – have used performance contracts successfully to improve the overall performance of government agencies. And any practice that improves efficiency, accountability and transparency in our government must be welcome.

But for the contracts to work, the targets must first be realistic. And they must be achievable. The TCB’s target of “attracting 100,000 ecological and culturally conscious tourists” is unrealistic and impossible. In 2009, only 23,480 tourists visited Bhutan. To quadruple it in three years is farfetched, especially since the Government has also mandated that all hotels catering to tourists must have at least a 3-star rating.

Setting achievable targets is important. But it is not sufficient. Adequate incentives must also be provided for achieving the targets. And, as far as I know, the performance compacts that were signed did not offer any incentives.

To be sure, the Prime Minister’s incentive is clear: votes. So he would obviously want the “compact” signatories to deliver.

But what about the officials, the civil servants? What’s in it for them? Why would TCB officials work four times harder if they can’t see any immediate reward?


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  1. Even RCSC PCS has performance indicators requirement from civil servants. Question is can we deliver or perform? Or are performances properly measured? Things are not as straight forward as people normally think, especially in Government system. If it is in manufacturing companies or private business firms employee performance can be measured, regulated or whatever. In government systems it does not happen as we want things to happen.


  2. YES, the reward. It could serve the dual purpose of both the means and the ends. No matter what, at the end of the day, that’s what we are all ultimately looking for. A reward for all the hard work to live better, to have more money, to live in a good house, to be able to take care of our parents and siblings in the villages, dignity, fame so on and so forth. Nobody works for free. The OL works hard to get public recognition of his capabilities and, moreso, for his strong sense of righteousness which I hope he will keep up if he becomes the next prime minister. The PM Jigme Y. Thinley works hard to get re-elected and continue receiving a quarter of a million ngultrums into his bank account at the end of each month. The ministers and the members of the parliaments have expressed themselves repeatedly and shamelessly that they can not work better without adequate rewards. All in all, nobody works for free for the Tsa Wa Sum. If someone says he does, that’s a bullshit. Slap him on the mouth.

  3. And yes, without proper reward, nothing will work. OL is right. They have missed the incentives.

  4. With the so called “Performance Compacts” and unrealistic targets some people are going to become scapegoats and sacrificial lambs in 2012. It’s okay for the politicians but civil servants better be careful.

  5. Talking about incentives, there are some disparity in the way different professionals are rewarded in our system. I would like to think that any profession be it sweeping job, automobile workers, toilet cleaner, medical specialist, chief engineer, school principle, barber etc. should be rewarded for what they do; but in our system there is an apparent discrimination. I want government, be it present or future one, to correct this irrational rewarding system.

    I will like to pose this question to OL if he becomes a next prime minister. Will he correct this obvious discrimination in our system?. How will he be different from the present PM? Is he going to treat people for their performance regardless of who they are, or who they are related to, or what they do for living?. I truely feel that it is easy to write or pin point the shortcoming of the system, but when people are given opportunity or made to correct the shortcomings through so called electoral process they are either incompetent or not willing to do so. Most sacrifice their principle for personal gains qas learned from many democracies in the world.

    I would like to see a truely principled leader to lead the young democracy in Bhutan. But the question is who we have and who are the most potential ones????


  6. The TCB official may not have to work at all – actually.

  7. Thinley Penjore says:

    I appreciate the concerns raised by OL on the recently signed Performance Contract by few Organizations. As rightly pointed by OL, the goals are highly unrealistic especially the goals set by Tourism Dept. and I am of the opinion that other organizations also have similar unrealistic and unachievable goals set for them.

    Having worked in some 6 countries besides Bhutan over the past 4 years, I have also seen how this practice works. I worked in South Africa for one year and there this system is very much used in all the government organizations. They called it Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and each official have to prepare their target for the year which is reviewed by the management and is fully ensured that the targets set are realistic and achievable. Irrespective of whether you are doctor, engineer or any other professions, there are equal incentives given at the end of each year based on the performance of the individual staff. The incentives are salary increase with different percentage based on the performance ranking of individual staff ranging from 3 % to 7 % yearly. There is no discrimination as pointed out by one of the commenter in their system.

    Similarly, if you see the UNDP system of staff appraisal, they follow the same and there is incentives attached to it. In the UNDP system, it is called Results Competency Assessment (RCA). In the beginning of year, every staff prepares their work plan for the year which is reviewed and approved by the Supervisors. Based on the work plan, every staff prepares his/her Key Results to be achieved in that particular year which is again reviewed and approved by the Supervisors. At the end of year, each staff member is evaluated if he/she has achieved what he/she is supposed to achieve. Explanations have to be given if any of the task/activities are not accomplish and accordingly there is a ranking system based on the performance. The ranking system is directly linked to monetary incentives in terms of salary increase and the scope for further extension of the contract. The incentives are all uniform irrespective of the profession and there is no discrimination again.

    What I am trying to say in a nutshell is, it is good to have such practices, but it should be properly developed and both the staff members and management should understand it properly. There has to be certain incentives based on the performance of individual staff members which should be communicated and known by the staff members concerned. As rightly pointed out by Hon’ble OL, I am also equally skeptical if certain section of civil servants will work 3 to 4 times harder than those where such performance contracts are not in place. The system is good, but needs good amount of ground work and proper research before hastily adopting such practices which has become quite fashionable in Bhutan.

  8. The motive behind this initiative could be certainly to improve the health services and gear up the economy. I appreciate the govt. for this good initiative and many more of such initiatives should be undertaken to make things move inch by inch. As someone has already said I agree that there is an expectancy, whether money or recognition when someone does something. At the end of the day EVERYONE expects some form of reward. Some recognition, money, votes. Even those who express their views on this blog expect something – that their voices be heard by others and so …the fruits of what is sown today are successfully reaped. I think the initiative was justified as long as it is in the larger interest of the nation. OL’s point is valid but also I think that people are motivated and committed to work for the nation.

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