It is no big secret that the private sector in Bhutan still has a long way to go, but even at its current state it is the largest employer after agriculture and a sector that still absorbs the bulk of the educated youth that do not get government jobs.
It generates a major and ever increasing share of the internal revenue, which is used to fund and run the current expenditure of the government with some even leftover for capital expenditure.
After the major disappointments and reality checks in the much touted hydro sector, it has become clear that it is only the private sector which can lead to a truly self sufficient Bhutan.
However, even in this day and age, the mindset of many government officials towards the private sector is archaic, petty and unhelpful.
A lot of government officials have a perception that it is only they who truly serve the country and are more honest compared to the profit seeking business people.
A look at ACC and RAA reports may say otherwise, but this is not the main issue here. Bhutan by the RCSC’s own admission has one of the biggest civil services in the world in comparison to the population. This is a tremendous drain on the annual budget and revenues to the point that the machinery is becoming more expensive than the actual service provided by it.
The civil service can neither provide revenue nor the jobs in adequate quantity, and so it must allow the sector which can do the best of both- the private sector to flourish.
A start could be made with small things like not treating people in the private sector like second class citizens in the totem pole.
Brushing everyone with the same brush just because a few businesses engage in illegal or unethical practices is the same as assuming the majority of civil servants to be dishonest, based on the actions of a few.
The government machinery and officials must facilitate the private sector rather than to stifle or compete with it. The system must start trusting and empowering the private sector.
It does not compute that we don’t mind losing billions to foreign companies and contractors but we begrudge even the little that goes to the private sector. It is ironical that it takes retirement and a stint in the private sector for some senior officials to see how unfriendly the system can get.
“Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.”