To pay or not to pay

Editorial

The pay revision proposed by the Pay Commission is in the hands of the government. They will soon decide the shots.

But one thing that is clear is that the “wow factor” is missing. DrukNyamprupTshogpa’s pledge to revise the payment of civil servants may have found fulfillment but the requisite criterion to evoke shock waves is absent.

As always, though the highest pay revision is for the lower rung, they benefit the least in terms of actual amount translated. If the pay revision comes into effect, those in the low income bracket would benefit only about Nu 2,000 while those already with heavy income would receive Nu 10,000 extra.

Whom do we blame and how do we put the murmurings to rest? Right now, the authorities still have time and scope to change the revision but one wouldn’t expect much to be altered. Despite disparities in the final amount received, the fact is that the low income group has received a recommendation of 7% more than the high income category in terms of salary alone.

Further, the former are entitled to performance-based incentives, provident fund and housing allowance. However, on the flip side, we have the allowance system. One wonders why parliamentarians would require a drivers’ allowance if they do not recruit drivers. There is very much the chance to misuse or divert allowances thus burning a hole in the government coffer.

DrukNyamrupTshogpa had promised at least two pay revisions during their tenure. Considering the way things are going, we also wonder how sustainable it will be. No doubt, it is a good thought but Bhutan is on the threshold of graduating from least developed country and we wonder if such flamboyant promises of income dissemination are wise when the country is quite cash-strapped and should be using its resources judiciously. If there are means to generate income such moves could be accepted but to set such a precedent we need to have enough funds to be used sustainably. Politicians will try to buy votes. The people need to have vision.

Another issue that it rises on the sidelines is the private sector. The private sector is suffering because of low pay and lack of conducive work environment and funding for out-of-the-box entrepreneurs and their ideas. The government should not mollycoddle the civil service alone but also think of boosting the private sector which absorbs the majority of the work force.

The civil service already has security, benefits and allowances to cushion its employees. The “engine of economic growth” is spurting for lack of fuel and lubricants and it is high time the government encouraged its functions too. For now, the parliament will decide the pay revision. Right now, looking at the pay revision, the government must admit that it failed to “narrow the gap.”  It can only be hoped that the disparity is reduced when the final pay revision materializes.

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