MP’s help themselves to a generous entitlement pie

With the twenty five ‘yes’ votes and “11” no votes the National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday passed the Parliamentary Entitlement Bill 2014 that will make MPs a lot more prosperous with additional hikes and perks.

The bill will only be finalized upon the recommendations from the National Council (NC) which is only a formality as the NC’s resolution will be non binding.

The Bill is only for the MPs and it does not apply to cabinet ministers.

According to the Bill MPs will get the pay equivalent to the constitutional post holders at Nu. 75,160 from the ex-isting basic pay of Nu.50,445. The government’s original pay revision proposed for parliamentarians was at Nu.65,930 after a 21 percent hike and a higher Nu.75,160 for the constitutional post holders.

MPs from both the ruling and opposition party many of whom were unhappy with the gap between them and the ministers directly and indirectly proposed a higher hike from themselves then what the government had intended.

This will mean that MPs will be taking Nu 25,000 more than their current salary and Nu 10,000 more than the original hike.

On top of that they would be entitled to house rent allowance of 30% of the basic pay which comes to an additional Nu 22,548. The Bill also lists out lump sum allowances on telephone mobile of Nu.5,000, monthly telephone charges of Nu.2,000, monthly driver’s allowance of Nu.8,505, monthly fuel allowance of Nu.8,000, monthly vehicle maintenance allowance of Nu.7,000 and a discretionary allowance of Nu.100,000. Though most of these allowances existed earlier the new addition is Nu 8,000 for fuel allowance and increase in the vehicle lump sum allowance.

This would mean that the average total pay of an MP would be around Nu 123,213 per month. If the discretionary allowance is added it would go up to Nu 130,000 a month equivalent to what ministers will be getting.

MPs have also given themselves a lump sum amount of Nu 1 mn for purchasing vehicles, free of customs duty, sales tax and other government taxes in the beginning of their term. This is while ordinary people will have to pay between 100 percent to 180 percent tax.

MPs would also be entitled to travel allowances within Bhutan, expenses for carriage and personal effects, daily subsistence allowance and pension and social security annuity as per the parliamentary rules.

The house also made decision not to have mileage for the constituency visits and other official tours outside the Parliament headquarter.

Under section 29, where earlier the MPs were entitled to only provident fund, the house decided to have ad-ditional lump sum pension and social security annuity in accordance to the parliamentary rules and regulations.

The Bill fixes the pay of National Council’s Chairperson and Opposition Leader (OL) equivalent to that of the Cabinet Minister which is 130,000 excluding perks.

According to the Bill the National Assembly Speaker’s pay will be marginally higher than that of the NC Chairperson and Opposition leader for the posts additional responsibility. The National Assembly’s Deputy Speaker and National Council’s Deputy Chairperson would also enjoy slightly higher pay than the MPs for their additional responsibility.

The changes in the Bill was based on the recommendations made by the special committee formed on the direction of the Speaker The none member committee comprised of the Finance Minister as the Chairman, along with the Economic Affairs Minister, Home Minister, Chumued Ura MP, Panbang MP, Phuentsholing MP and Bji-Katsho MP.

Upon the passing of the bill, the North Thimphu MP, Yeshey Zimba said he could not support it as the pay revision was supposed to be carried out for the civil servants pay and not for ministers and MPs.

He also reflected on the pay revision carried out by the previous government twice which he said was done in accordance to the report from the pay commission. Thereby, he said, the ministers did not accept the hike and the MPs pay was hiked only after considering the country’s economic situation.

He said he hoped that the ministers would not take the pay hike in view of the country’s economic scenario. He said that the present pay package for the ministers and MPs are enough as the country cannot provide everything one desires as the some parts of the country are still are in poverty. He said that during the election the pledges for a hike were not made for the ministers and MPs but for the civil service.

Opposition Leader, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho asked whether the bill was a money bill or an ordinary bill. Home Minister Damchoe Dorji said it was a money bill but it must go to the NC. He said the pay revision is not finalised and the assembly will have to be discuss the recommendations from the NC to make it final. However, given that it is a money bill the NC’s recommendations would not be binding.

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