The Department of Local Governance (DLG) has submitted a proposal on rationalizing of gewogs in the country. The proposal has five gewog merger options which the government can choose from. The Cabinet will decide and submit its choice to the Parliament for discussions and endorsement.
Local leaders stated that they see numerous issues related to the proposal if the decision is made in haste. They said the matter could be done at a later date and reasoned that merging of gewogs, at this point of time, may have negative impacts on developmental activities, and therefore, if government can reconsider on its plans.
Pemagatshel Thrizin, Pema Dorji, shared that they have been receiving numbers of calls from people sharing their concerns on the gewog merger. Pemagatshel is one of the remotest and poorest dzongkhags, whereby the development activities have just begun, he said.
He said, “Gewog merger would be fine with developed dzongkhag as they do not need more of developmental activities. However, I think that the least developed dzongkhags like ours may suffer with this.”
“The elected candidate may give priority to the developmental activities in his area, whereby the other areas might be left as it is. Moreover, people may not get the services on time,” he added.
He said that if the merger happens then it might be difficult for them to graduate from being one of the poorest dzongkhag in the country.
Chukha Thrizin, Tshering Nidup said, “We have not received anything on this officially. As far as I know, they have their own mandates, however, I feel that this may cause inconvenience. It may have advantage but may have more of disadvantages.”
He said that though the decision is not final, the proposal is to merge his gewog Bongo and Getena gewog. If this happens, he said, it would be inconvenient to work and they will not be able to cover up the areas as it is huge already.
They might fail to provide services on time and may fail to have the results as expected, he added. However, he said, “Merging of gewogs with less population and with less areas to cover seems suitable. So, if they can re-consider the situation and do it rather than making it uniform for all the 20 dzongkhags.”
Mongar Thrizin, Karma Sonam Wangchuk, said that though it is a good move, however, there are various issues at the gewog level that needs to be addressed.
“I think it would be difficult to merge all the gewogs as they have planned. We are not against it, but we want them to see the feasibility and prioritize the merging before implementing it. However, I will go with whatever decision the government will take.”
The election may not be fair as the candidates with higher voters may win the seat, not considering if he is capable for the post and there are chances of fund diversion, Gups shared.
Meanwhile, Director of DLG, Kado Zangpo, said that this is not just a merger but rationalizing of gewogs so that there is better and effective administrative unit.
He said, “Having lots of administrative unit, itself, is a burden. Accessibility of services, population, distance, language and culture were considered for rationalization.”
The number of chiwogs could increase but the delimitation is to be done by the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB).
“DLG is focusing on self-reliance, autonomy of the local government. We are looking from a tax base point. Today, the cost of collecting tax is more than what they are collecting, and increasing the tax base of the local administrative units is our first step,” he added.
Many people might lose their posts if this is implemented, and there would be some hiccups, however, for the long run, this would benefit the people in many ways, he said.
Some of the benefits would be the possibility of getting good candidates, better public service delivery and additional budget.
When budget allocation is more, he said, that the leaders would think for better development, adding that there is possibility of handling a bigger project that would indirectly create an employment opportunity.
He said, “The government wants to uplift the post by paying better and by providing more facilities so that the best and the brightest would come and work.”
Citing as an example, he said, that in today’s scenario, if a gewog wants to construct a bridge to connect two gewogs, the gewog that sees the least benefit from the bridge will not want to contribute to the construction. But if they are brought together, they would construct, he said and likewise, there are many issues which can be resolved if rationalized.
Lyonchhen, from day one, said not to rationalize if the only objective is to bring down the cost, he said, and for that matter they have not worked on any coordination cost.