Interim Bardo

Every five years Bhutan loses an important three months in the interim government period when a largely symbolic government is in place and decisions are frozen at various levels.

Developmental and economic activities are either stopped or slow down and only the most essential work is done.

In the civil service the absence of political masters is akin to the headmaster not in the school and things start to slack from both the lack of decisions and also lack of accountability.

There are higher level of leave applications or civil servants simply not in office. There is also a proclivity to not do work and basically freeze or delay everything.

In the absence of a political bosses and proper coordination mid-level bureaucrats suddenly assume extra powers and each department or agency becomes like feudal turf with no connect to overall efficiency. This new found power is used to mainly stop or slow things and interpret implementation of programs to the whims and fancies of bureaucrats.

In essence both governance and the economic developments suffers during this period.

Also, the new government will lose around six months of the first year of the 12th plan and it will have some catching up to do.

The current interim government is well aware of the issues. It should, therefore, take up this ‘bardo’ aspect of Bhutanese democracy and recommend measures whereby both governance and development does not have to suffer.

The problem right at the top lies firstly in the inability of the outgoing ruling and opposition party to agree to more developmental activities and powers for the interim period. This leaves a very limited budget during the interim period.

After that the problem is in administration as the powers of the Interim Government is not spelt out beyond the broad definitions of the Constitution. All that people seem to know is that the interim government cannot take decisions. This leaves the civil service without any policy heads beyond the administrative secretaries who themselves are restricted.

Some rules and if necessary even an Interim Government Act may be needed to deal with this crucial three-month bardo period.

Good governance requires working toward common ground. It isn’t easy.
Pete Hoekstra

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