The DPT manifesto’s pledge to create the post of a deputy minister in the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, with the aim of reducing youth unemployment has come under fire from various political parties.
Members of political parties say that such a move is not in keeping with the Constitution, and will lead to more red tapes, protocol issues, and also create an additional burden on the taxpayers for an under developed country like Bhutan.
Some have even said that this is actually a political ploy by DPT, to keep candidates happy in the DPT and once a precedent is set, then many more deputy ministers will follow.
The DPT’s announcement may also give life to a position that has long been defunct, since early 2000 onwards.
PDP President Tshering Tobgay said, “It is an outrage against the sensibilities of the Bhutanese and shows an utter disregard and disrespect for the letter and spirit of the Constitution.”
He said that Bhutanese youth do not need more ministers to be created, but more jobs, which the government has failed to do.
He said that the problem of youth employment cannot be solved by externalizing it, by creating a deputy minister, and instead a government will have to take a leadership role to solve the problem.
The PDP President said that such an announcement showed a lack of leadership in DPT, and also a lack of understanding. He pointed out that the past month had shown a real lack of leadership in the DPT, with many incumbent candidates and the DPT doing everything to get new candidates from outside.
DNT spokesperson Dr Tandin Dorji said that when democracy was instituted, the post of deputy minister was not created. He said that all posts should be created according to the constitutional laws.
“In creating certain posts like this, there is a risk that people close to certain politicians can have posts created for political gains,” he said.
The DNT spokesperson said, “I don’t think this is setting a good example for a democracy, we should follow the rule of law.”
DCT President Lily Wangchhuk also echoed similar sentiments as other the party presidents, whom this paper spoke to, highlighting that it would not be in keeping with the Constitution, and would create a burden on tax payers, more red tape, and also protocol issues.
As per the Constitution, under Article 20 for the Executive, “Creation of an additional ministry or reduction of any ministry shall be approved by Parliament. Ministries shall not be created for the purpose only of appointing Ministers.”
However, the former minister of Labour and Human Resources, Dorji Wangdi said that the Constitution is not a manual guide to everything, and that the Constitution can give permission for additional ministers.
He said, “For the moment this is the only ministry for which, an additional post is being created to deal with youth unemployment.”
He said that the post demonstrated how seriously his party takes the issue of youth unemployment. He said that the deputy minister would serve in the office of the minister, and would help share the work load of the minister.
Dorji Wangdi declined to comment on the speculation that DPT would be creating more deputy minister posts in the future.
The post of a deputy minister was created in the time of His Majesty the third King, like Zimpon Sangay Tenzin, Dasho Shingkhar Lam, etc.
In the time of His Majesty the fourth King, most ministers like, Lyonpo Jigmi Y Thinley, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba and Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk had to serve as deputy ministers, before becoming full ministers. Deputy ministers were appointed to keep the number of ministers small.
From 1998 onwards, when His Majesty the fourth King asked an elected cabinet to take over the post of deputy ministers, and it was largely discontinued except in few exceptions. It is understood, for example, that Lyonpo Leki Dorji served as the deputy minister for the Ministry of Communications during the pre-democracy cabinet.
Currently, the only two deputy minister who held rank from the earlier time are chief advisor to the National Environment Comission, Dasho Benji Dorji , and Privy Council member, Dasho Nado Rinchen. They are the last of the deputy ministers, until their retirement from active service.
A reliable source said that it is understood that except for those who continued from earlier times, there will be no more new deputy ministers, after the introduction of a democratic government in 2008.
In the past, a deputy minister’s pay was higher than that of a secretary’s, and slightly lower than the salary of a minister, but it came with almost all the same perks as a minister’s post, especially if he was a member of the cabinet. The Ministry of Finance in the past had a separate pay structure for deputy ministers. One notable difference was that the dearness allowance of a deputy minister was around 50 percent lower than that of the minister’s allowance.
Tenzing Lamsang / Thimphu