The entitlement culture

If anybody wanted to see one of the reasons for the state of our economy, the collective outrage of 417 B.Ed graduates at 182 job vacancies is a good pointer.

Anywhere else in the developing work, graduates of any college would be overjoyed at the 50 percent chance of finding an assured government job, but not here in Bhutan.

Also, in many other countries teachers would be dying to get into private schools which pay better, but in Bhutan the situation is literally reverse.

All of the above points to a culture of entitlement, and also deep flaws in our economic model that is not doing the country any good.

The civil service is already bloated with around 25,000 employees, not counting thousands of government corporate employees and others that can push the population of total government servants to around 40,000.

This is very high for any country and in fact too high for Bhutan, a least developed country with limited government resources, still dependant on foreign aid.

25,000 civil servants collectively form the biggest expenditure for the government, and the regular hiring of more civil servants combined with pay hikes is not helping. In short, the trend is increasingly heading towards a situation where the government spends more on the service delivery mechanism then the actual services.

With the civil service pay hike already causing a dent on the budget, thousands of corporate employees are also expecting a hike which will reduce the government dividends and tax revenue from these corporations.

Bhutan’s economic crisis is not just an import and export problem, but it is also about an entire economic model where the most productive and brightest people opt for the safety and frustration of government jobs over the risks and enterprise of the private sector.

The government, in itself, has also unwittingly encouraged this system or way of thinking over the years.

One example is hydro projects where the recent and even past pay hikes have also been calculated taking into account the revenue of current and future hydro projects. This laying of claim on national resources by an increasingly bloated civil service is neither fair nor is it healthy.

A lot of what ails Bhutan can all be brought down to this mentality of entitlement. Since the civil service is seen as the entitled class, the majority of bright young people want to join a system that is becoming an economic burden on the state. These same young people who look down upon even private sector jobs will not even think about doing blue collar jobs.

The hierarchical division of professions not necessarily based on value or contribution also takes place. So the best and brightest of one professional class can often get the same treatment and position of even the junior most bureaucrats, if they are lucky.

For example, apart from the pay and other issues one of the other main reasons that so many senior journalists left the profession is because they did not feel recognized and appreciated for their work.

The government’s own protocol list will make an interesting read on whose position is where in Bhutan. The private sector and professional classes, that are actually Bhutan’s future and supposed saviors are at the rank bottom in most cases.

The Prime Minister’s stand that government colleges do not equate to an automatic government job is a welcome statement. His offer that the government will create the right environment for the private sector to create jobs is appropriate for our times.

The population of Bhutan is around 700,000 of which the majority live in rural areas, and so an elite class of civil servants, that has already benefitted so much from government subsidies should stop promoting  the entitlement culture that is not doing the country any good.

Bureaucracy gives birth to itself and then expects maternity benefits.

Dale Dauten

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