The Meet-the-Press session by the Opposition Party, Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), raised issues with the government for approving the Pay Revision Bill without study or research on the implication of the pay revision in the future.
Opposition Party said that the pay revision at this time is too early, and instead of narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor, which is one of the main goals of the government, it would rather widen the gap.
The pay revision was done when the country is facing a budget deficit with huge external debt, which is called as negative indicators, said the Opposition Leader (OL) Dr Pema Gyamtsho. He said the decision made by the government on the pay revision might have an adverse effect the role and function of the Pay Commission of Bhutan.
The Opposition Leader said that the Pay Commission was instituted by the government and while instituting it, the government might have given proper directions on pay raise, especially in terms of affordability and different categories of civil servants.
Based on this, after conducting thorough research and studies and discussions with the relevant stakeholders, the Pay Commission has submitted the Pay Revision Report, OL said.
OL also questioned on whether putting the Pay Revision Report on the social media to get public feedback was the right move or not. He said that putting Pay Revision Report on social media was political lobbying, which is not good in the future.
He also pointed out that when the Pay Revision Bill was passed, it was passed as a completely different Bill from what Pay Commission has submitted because of the many changes made by the government and the two Houses of the Parliament.
He said, “Government can make minor changes but major changes should not take place because overall directives would be provided to the Pay Commission by the government.”
“In the future it will turn into populist measure and there are also chances of taking politically motivated decisions,” he said.
OL shared that the whole process, itself, was wrong and it needs to be questioned. “The question is that will the decision made by the government on the Pay Commission benefit the people? I have a doubt. Of course it might help those section of people who will get higher salary raise and allowances, but what about the rest?” OL questioned.
With teachers and health staff given the highest pay raise, OL questioned whether the raise would improve the quality of services because there are no indicators on how the raise would improve the quality of health facilities. “We would expect a drastic change in the health facilities and drastic change in the attitude of health staff,” he said.
He said, “Teachers will be given raise, but we do not know whether this will improve the quality of education. Raise should be given, but will this raise stop teachers from leaving the profession? We should question whether this will improve or decrease the quality of education?”
Opposition Leader also highlighted that the pay revision has widened the gap instead of narrowing it. It has caused disparities among civil servants itself, he said.
OL also questioned on the sustainability of pay revision. He said, “I am doubtful. If we look at the status of economy, I feel that it is not the right time to give the raise. If we look at the budget deficit of the 12th plan, it is around Nu 40 million and the country’s national debt is above Nu 200 mn. How will we repay it?”
The government was banking on the hydropower projects and tax reforms, which the Opposition thinks is not a wise decision. “As an Opposition Party, we have warned the government that this is not the right time for revision, but in the end, it depends on the government in power to make the decision, “ OL said.
The pay revision bill was passed with 37 yes votes, two no votes and five abstained.