In what could be described as both a heated and theatrical display opposition members said that the government’s pay revision report is not based on the principle of reducing the income gaps in the civil service position during the third session of the second parliament yesterday.
The National Assembly (NA) in the end despite all the tension and drama adopted the report with a very few changes. Before the house discussed the pay revision report, Finance Minister, Lyonpo Namgay Dorji said the discussion had to be carried out within the budget outlay of 1.799bn.
On the Prime Ministers (PM) salary, PM, Tshering Tobgye himself declined his new pay scale and asked it to be kept as same as that of the other Ministers. The PM justified this by saying that the country has still not fully recovered from the economic crisis. But, the NA members fully supported the need of a distinct pay package for the PM.
The pay hike of 131% for PM, and 67% for Cabinet Ministers, Speaker, NC Chairperson and Chief justice was proposed during the sixth session of the first parliament. But it had not come into effect with the country’s worsening economic situation.
Bard- Trong MP, Lekey Dorji said, as the head of the government, the PM should be paid not only 180,000 but also more but PM should take up his responsibility to the best of his ability.
Drametse-Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi said the need for a difference has been there all over the world but the decision to take a hike or not will depend on the PM.
While the house started discussion on the PM’s pay, the MP from North Thimphu MP, Kinga Tshering and Lamgong-Wangchang MP, Khandu Wangchuk said that the start of the discussion should be from the pay revision for civil servants due to their large numbers.
For the post of the PM, Ministers, NC Chairperson and Opposition leader, NA speaker, Chief Justice, Deputy Speaker and NC Deputy Chairperson the house agreed to go by what was mentioned in the report.
Upon the pay revision for MPs, many were not happy with the 21% rise. Khar-Yurung MP, Zangley Drukpa raised his concern on the vast difference in the salary between the MPs and Ministers.
Nubi-Tangsibji MP, Nidup Zangpo said the pay revision report, aimed to make income gap less but the little increase in the pay percentage of a high level position holder would be very high compared to the higher increase at the lower levels.
The Agriculture Minister responded by saying that not only is there an increase in the pay but that the civil servants also have a house allowance.
On the salary and entitlements for MPs the house decided to discuss the issue during the discussions on the Parliament Entitlement bill on Monday.
The house also passed the same pay hike for the constitutional position holders, Royal Privy Council Chairman, Auditor General, Secretaries and Cabinet Secretary.
While the house deliberation on the pay for the civil servants, MPs addressed the need to increase the pay more than what the report states.
Drametse-Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi said at least to cover the current inflation, there needs to be an additional increase of 5-6% for the civil servants if there is adequate government budget.
North Thimphu MP, Kinga Tshering said that with the country’s economic situation getting better with projects like Dagachhu and Dungsum Cement there was a need for the change in the housing allowance and pay for the civil servants.
The house also kept to the report on the non-government agencies, Non-formal Education Instructor and Royal academy for performing arts as well for the contract teachers.
On the local government position holders, Panbang MP, Dorji Wangdi stated the government pledge on doubling the pay for the Gups and the possibility to look into other benefits and allowances has not been fulfilled and he proposed an increase.
On allowances, the house approved all as reflected in the report except for the MP’s vehicle grant which is to be discussed on Monday during the parliament entitlement bill and also vehicle quota system which is to be discussed during the winter NA session.
On high altitude allowance, the Opposition leader said there should be no distinction in the altitude but in the location of the place. For example he said, if there is one is a metre above that altitude one could avail the benefit whereas others cannot. He adds that all those who are required to wear uniforms should be provided with the uniform allowance.
On mileage, one MP said, it would be better if there mileage categorized accordingly with the position. He also recommended having TA/DA for the Tshogpa and Gaydrung and Mileage for the Mangmis and Gups.
On the pool vehicles to be surrendered by the government, Panbang MP, Dorji Wangdi said, about 1000 drivers would be left unemployed. The Finance Minister said they are worried and it would be their responsibility to look into it.
Speaker, concluding the session stated, that while taking the decision one should keep in the mind the limited budget and asked the government to take consider increasing the pay for civil servants.