The Opposition party came out criticizing various aspects of the government’s pay revision decision but kept silent on the MPs own hikes and allowances and particularly its Prado Quota and Nu 1 mn to buy a vehicle with each term.
This is until The Bhutanese asked on how appropriate it was for MPs of any party, past or present, to take a Prado Quota and Nu 1 mn to buy a vehicle.
The Opposition Leader (OL) Dr Pema Gyamtsho said that the MP is a new position and that earlier there were Chimis. He said the election process is very different from that of before.
He said that MPs now keep getting calls at all hours of the day by their constituents on various issues. He said some call about somebody being sick and sending people to help leads to expenditure, others call about kids not getting admission in a college etc.
He said that there is expenditure during constituency visits too as one has to offer appropriate compensation when one is offered traditional welcome gifts like cheeseballs or local wine.
“Unlike what some people think it is not easy being an MP and it is not just about wearing a blue Kabney and getting various perks,” said the OL.
He said that MPs are entitled to a chauffer driven car as even government secretaries and directors get them. The OL also said it is difficult to attract good candidates who are in comfortable jobs as they have to put their head in the ring.
He pointed out that after five years the MPs can end up jobless and so this cannot be compared to bureaucrats who have job security and have the option to join politics too.
The OL said that he can agree to do away with the quota system but under the current system it is seen more as an allowance or Thobthang when it is not the case but is important for MPs to carry out their jobs.
He said that even civil servants get a vehicle quota every seven years. He also said that it is important to get good candidates for MPs who have the ability to serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum.
“MPs have to be able to take of their own family. How can anyone serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum when they cannot afford to get their kids in a hospital or in a school, how can anyone serve the Tsa-Wa-Sum if they do not have adequate resources to lead a decent life,” said the OL.
Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that there are around 170 democratic countries and each of them have a different system and in some countries MPs don’t even get a salary but they can keep their business license.
He said that in the context of Bhutan MPs have to give up all licenses and cannot hold any office of profit and MPs are compensated to lead a decent life.
He said that in 2008 the MP’s entitlement was a chauffer driven car or money to buy a car along with a quota.
The Panbang MP said that a duty car is given from the PM downwards to Dzongdas and so 58 MPs minus the ministers should get a duty car each.
The MP said that though some feel that duty cars are less expensive he is of the view that it would be more expensive than a quota.
He said that the Nu 6,000 per month driver allowance is not enough to hire a driver and contrary to certain reports of all MPs not hiring drivers he had hired a driver form 2013 on a part-time basis and from then itself he was paying him Nu 8,000.