It brings up need of home loan for private sector too and opposes fuel tax and use of domestic help by ministers
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a 10-point letter addressed to the Cabinet
made various comments and alternative suggestions to the Government on the recommendations of the 4th Pay Commission.
The PDP said it tried to give a 2nd pay revision to the civil servants during its tenure, however, due to other compelling priorities and the prevailing financial situation then, itcould not do so. In this regard, PDP commended the new government for initiating the pay raise for civil servants.
A uniform lump sum hike
PDP said that although the salary increase for ESP is 28.6%, in absolute amount it is only Nu.2,000 against 14% for the top rung which in absolute figure is Nu. 25,200 for the PM, Nu.18,200 for the Cabinet minister and the equivalent posts.
It says the minimum salary of Nu. 9,000 for ESP is well below the minimum wage of Nu. 450 per day passionately pledged by the Government. It points out that the minimum salary to match the minimum wage pledged should at least be Nu.13,500 per month.
PDP said it agrees thepublic servants across all levels need salary increases and Nu. 4.238 bn is a generous budget proposed for the purpose.
It says there is a tremendous scope to reduce the gap with this budget. For example, if the allocated budget were equally divided among approximately 40,000 public servants, each public servant would get an increase of Nu.8,829 each month. This would push the minimum salary of ESP to Nu.15,829 which is above the minimum wage.
It says in doing so, the objective of the DNT to narrow the gap can be a beginning, at least within the public service.
“We understand those professionals with expertise may need to be paid a little higher but there is a tremendous scope to fulfil your pledge to narrow the gap through this salary revision,” says the letter.
PDP said that before the introduction of democracy in Bhutan, the post of two important public functionaries, Chimi, an elected people’s representative (now known as Member of Parliament) and Gup, head a Gewog existed.
It said that while the former Chimi, i.e. current MP’s salary is mapped with that of a government secretary, a gup’s salary was mapped with a P2-level officer in civil service.
This salary mapping for Gup was done only in 2017 and they received a lumpsum salary- without any post retirement benefits or annual increments -prior to that.
It says the salaries of the LG officials after implementing the 4th Pay Commission’s recommendations would be lower than the one’s they were mapped with before.
The PDP pointed out that in the 12th FYP, almost 50% of the budget is allocated to LGs and Gup has a much bigger role now than ever. Gup is the Chairperson of Gewog Tshogde and Chief Executive of Gewog administration.
“Therefore, it is time to raise their mapping to higher-level official and not lower them. We request the Government to review and provide salaries to LG officials commensurate with their responsibilities. They should not be left out of the pay raise,” said the letter.
30% HRA for all
PDP said that the recommendation to increase 30% house rent for term-based appointees against 20% for regular civil servants goes against the very ideology of the DNT, and as such this will create a disparity in the system. Therefore, PDP suggested that a uniform house rent of 30% is provided across the system to “narrowing the gap.’
Domestic help for ministers
The PDP said that during its tenure, PDP had done away with employment of domestic help and providing dedicated pool vehicles for the residence of a minister.
“Now, we learn that these facilities are being extended to the ministers under government payroll,” said the letter.
The letter says that TA/DA and mileage claim may be kept uniform for all public servants irrespective of grades or positions since it is to meet expenses while travelling on duty.
“This is exactly what DNT pledged during the campaign and on which it was elected,” says the letter. It says the Government may also look at the rationale for reduction of mileage from the previous Nu.16 per km to Nu.10 per km.
“We would suggest revising mileage taking into account the cost of fuel, vehicle maintenance as was done in the case of MP’s, if not maintain it at Nu. 16 per km for all civil servants,” said the letter.
PDP said that it is the prerogative of His Majesty the King to award titles, medals or honours to deserving citizens. Its letter says, “Honours should not be monetised and we should not undermine that unique honour. We call upon the Government to not interfere with the Royal Honour,” said the letter.
Salary indexation will not work
PDP said that while Annual salary indexation is a good concept they doubt if it will work in the civil service.
“While this mechanism may not require political parties and the Government to decide on salaries of public servants, Pay Commission is a constitutional entity and we may have to see if it is legally tenable to bypass the work of Pay Commission,” said the letter.
Don’t put fuel Tax
The PDP said that Pay Commission has made recommendations to increase fuel price by introducing additional taxes.
“We strongly believe that there is a close correlation between cost of transportation and essential goods and services. While GST regime was introduced in India during our tenure, we did not include any taxes to make fuel more affordable, so we appeal to the Government to not introduce any new taxes on fuel,” said the PDP.
Home loan to private sector too
PDP welcomed the Pay Commission’s recommendations for “first home loan scheme” with facilities such as providing land on lease, subsidized interest rates, and access to basic construction materials at concessional rates.
“We only request the Government to apply this scheme to all private and public sector employees too. In fact, we should look at providing this facility to all citizens, particularly the retirees some of whom are languishing in poverty after retirement,” said the PDP letter.
Vehicle quota, Teacher’s allowance, narrowing gap
Besides the ten points above the PDP made some additional suggestions for the the government to consider.
PDP said the financial implication of the pay revision is only Nu. 18.285 bn as stated in the report, while the 12th FYP has Nu. 20B earmarked.
“We would like the Government to consider using the fully earmarked budget to meaningfully narrow the income gap within the public service,” said PDP.
It said that paying salaries to public servants fortnightly has advantage that it puts cash in their hands two weeks in advance and this is as per the DNT’s pledge.
The PDP said that DNT’s other most popular pledge to extend vehicle quota to all citizens will be defeated if no such recommendation is in the report.
“Even if you cannot give vehicle quota to all citizens as pledged, consider giving vehicle quotas to all public servants including public corporations at least once in a lifetime for those who are not eligible. This will help narrow the gap,” said PDP.
It said the downward revision of mileage will not incentivise but will greatly demotivate public servants, especially those serving in difficult and remote parts of the country.
PDP said, “If we are serious about improving the quality of education, we need to enhance the allowances or introduce other incentives for our teachers. We call upon the Government to consider making teaching profession moreattractive through enhanced salaries and better allowances and benefits.”
The PDP leadership and the party said while it would like to fully endorse some of the recommendations of the 4th PC, it would also like to request the Government to consider the larger interests of the less privileged in the civil service and the country.
The PDP said that as the oldest political party in the Kingdom of Bhutan it has sacred responsibility to provide its position or alternative policieson any new policy initiative of the government.
It said that the leadership and the party takes this opportunity to commend the government for commissioning the 4th pay commission for recommending a salary hike for civil servants but also but also submits its 10-point suggestions on some of the critical recommendations of the Commission to the Lhengye Zhungtshog for consideration before tabling it to the Parliament.
The PDP pointed out that while the government is calling it a pay commission report it is just recommendations of the pay commission as per the Constitution.