PM willing to walk back on ‘wow factor’

After the idea came under a lot of flak the PM says it will not happen if the civil servants don’t want it

On 15th February, the Prime Minister in a press conference announced that the government had asked the 4th Pay Commission to come up with a performance based pay hike for civil servants whereby civil servant who perform more get higher pay than their counterparts.

He called it the ‘wow factor’ saying that he had told the pay commission that ‘he would not be happy for everyone to be taking a flat cheque at the end of the month.’

The announcement and move has led to a huge disquiet in the civil service ranks, especially over how the government would measure such performance.

Now Lyonchhen (Dr) Lotay Tshering in an interview with The Bhutanese indicated that he is open to rethinking the issue and not even implementing such a pay based performance incentive.

In response to a question, Lyonchhen said, “If the media as well as civil servants feel that a flat pay raise is okay we are absolutely fine with it because we are just a small section who will be receiving the salary. Of course, the performance base will not apply to the MPs and ministers but only to general civil servants.”

In response to another question on the same issue of performance based pay hike he said, “I will let you all decide. If you all think that is better, we will do it. If you all feel that a flat pay raise is better the job is very easy for us and we will just let it be a flat pay raise.”

In another major shift of stance, the Prime Minister said that they would wait for the pay commission recommendations and do some stakeholder consultation with the Ministry of Finance, RCSC and civil servants.  He said that the government would do these consultations and then go by what they advise.

The PM said it all depends on whether one takes the positive or negative aspects. “You take the negative sides up there will be 110 negative things. You take the positive sides up; there are 110 positive things. I am just taking the positive sides up and I am not saying that this is going to be shoved down the throat,” said the PM.

He said that once the pay commission makes the recommendations, they would study it very carefully and come up with a very workable formula. He said, “So we will insure some clarity on this. But this is just a concept and just a vision that we have on the pay raise.”

Lyonchhen said that whatever the Pay Commission recommendations on the performance based pay hike he said there would be some ‘addition and deletion’ to the report.

Explaining why he thought of this idea in the first place, the PM said, “The biggest limiting factor as of today is complacency because at the end of the month everybody gets a flat salary or same salary, whether you work or not or whether you come at 9 am or 10 am, it does not really matter. Some people come at 7 and leave the office at 6 or 7 pm, and yet they get the same salary.”

“If you want to step into the developing part of the world and if you want to change your mindset we need to change the mindset in every sector, from the givers and lenders,” added the PM.

Lyonchhen said, “Whenever we talk about improving things people go back to their own comfort zone and this is the problem with all of us including the media, civil service and everyone.”

It has been learnt that the Pay Commission is looking at how the RCSC evaluates the performance of civil servants.

The Bhutanese has also learnt that it is unlikely that the RCSC will recommend a pay based performance incentive though the final decision on pay rests with the government.

Meanwhile this reporter talked to two RSCS officials, who requesting anonymity,  said that this is not only not a good idea but it had the potential to create chaos in the civil service system.

The first RCSC official said that he is not aware of any system across the world where civil servants are paid different salaries on the basis of performance.

He said that very nature of the civil service and its mainly social role makes it difficult to quantify it enough for different pay structures.

The official said, “It is not a good idea as the civil service works based on team work and this will affect team work. There will be problems even among the agencies as one agency can always argue that they are doing more work or more important work than the other.”

The second RCSC official pointed out currently the RCSC already has the Individual Work Plan (IWP) system that makes every individual civil servant accountable and rates their performance on an annual basis. He said that the incentive in this system is meritorious promotions, trainings and awards

The official said, “The IWP is in its third year and even though the main incentive is just promotions the system is still taking root. Putting a differentiated pay system on this will not work and lead to problems at the work place.”

A government secretary that the paper talked to and who also requested anonymity said that the current IWP system is tough enough with target setting, evaluations and other issues. He felt that coming up different pay packages based on performance would probably not work in the civil service.

One workable thing may be special allowances for certain categories of work based on their difficulties and work hours. Here it has been learnt that the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education have proposed certain allowances for their professional staff.

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