Tshogpa salaries

The government needs to understand what they can do and what they cannot do.

Last month, on October 27, during a press conference the finance minister announced that, “… while tshogpas deserve a raise, there is not enough money to raise their salary.” Furthermore, he clarified that, “an increment in the salary should be approved by the Pay Commission.”

So basically, we were told that the government can’t increase tshogpa salaries because (1) they don’t have enough money; and (2) the Pay Commission would have to approve any increase.

But last week, on November 16, the government announced that they had increased the salary of tshogpas to Nu 5,000 per month. And that that increase was decided by the cabinet.

So basically, now we are made to understand that (1) the government has enough money to increase tshogpa salaries; and (2) the Pay Commission does not have to approve that increase.

In fact, here’s what the government can do: increase tshogpa salaries. Why? Because tshogpas were being paid below the national minimum wage. So whether tshogpas deserved a raise or not, and whether the government had enough money or not, their salaries had to be increased to at least equal the national minimum wage level.

But here’s what the government cannot do: increase tshogpa salaries unilaterally. Why? Because only the Pay Commission has the authority to recommend increases in the salaries of public servants, including tshogpas who are members of the local government.

That’s why I called for tshogpa salaries to be increased, but objected that the government does not have the authority to do so unilaterally.

In order to ensure that the increased salaries of the tshogpas are lawful, the government should constitute a Pay Commission immediately to recommend revisions to the tshogpa salaries. There’s enough time for their recommendations to be approved by the government, and submitted to the next session of the Parliament.

Corporate salaries – part 1

Two readers – Samdrups and Sharu – asked me for my views on our government’s recent announcement on corporate salaries. My views are simple. And they are straightforward. Government should not be involved in doing business. Yes, government should regulate businesses. But no, government should not interfere in how businesses are run. So our government’s decision to define the salaries of corporations – business entities, all of them – is wrong.

First, consider the Druk Holdings and Investment Limited. DHI was established by His Majesty the King as an autonomous organization in order to promote “…the competitiveness of Bhutan’s economy by transforming companies with government shareholding into highly efficient and productive companies that strive for excellence.” If DHI is to strive for efficiency, productivity and excellence, it goes without saying that they should have full authority over their HR policies. And that includes the salaries of their employees. The government cannot dictate salaries to DHI and expect them to become highly efficient or productive enterprises.

That’s why the Royal Charter of DHI (which outlines how DHI will function and which, incidentally, was revised to incorporate the submissions made by the government to His Majesty the King) clearly states that “the remuneration of the CEO and the employees of DHI shall be determined by the Board of Directors of DHI.” The DHI’s Board of Directors must do their job. Two of the seven-member Board of Directors are civil servants, purposely, to ensure that the government’s views are adequately represented in the organization. Any attempt by the government to encroach on the Board’s authority is illegal. And must be challenged.