Whoever said money can’t buy happiness isn’t spending it right. If the new government in Bhutan cannot reduce the growing gap between the rich and poor, its “happiness” tag will peter out.
As Bhutan is all set to go for the National Assembly election on October 18, the dream of “salary hike” of the government employees is an issue in the election of the Dragon Kingdom.
How soon is the 12th Plan Budgets salary raise for civil servants coming? It has been notified that there will be a salary raise for civil servants as the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) has already prepared a draft.
Though there have been three civil service pay hikes between 2009 and 2017, a period of eight years, with one each in 2009, 2011 and 2014, the money paid as salary is not enough to sustain the families, taking into account the steep price rise. In the last pay hike in 2014, the rise was a 25 percent.
Even after the hike in the salary in 2014, it was really less compared to the government servants in India. Salary of teachers was increased from Nu 8,000 to Nu 11,200 per month, and is almost one-third of the pay scale of teachers in India.
The outgoing People’s Democratic Party had pledged to revise the civil servants’ salary twice during its term in office. Unfortunately, it did not happen. The outgoing PDP government said it could not do it because the hydropower projects did not complete as expected on schedule.
Now, the Bhutan government would need to Nu 73 billion for pay and allowance, and Nu 20 billion covers the salary raise. Can the new government keep the promise?
The cost of living in Bhutan is ridiculously high and it is becoming increasingly very stressful for everyone to survive. Moreover, despite the pay revisions and so-called hydropower wealth, most Bhutanese are surviving in penury.
Some of the Bhutanese citizens also demanded that government should subsidize the essential items like rice, pulses, cooking oil, LPG, milk, eggs and even electricity for the poor people to survive.
The Bhutanese nationals also feel PDP government’s failure to implement the second pay hike has created the gap between rich and poor wider. While the basic pay was hiked from Nu 5,000 to 6,500 for a driver, it grew in the same proportion for senior officers, whose salary grew from Nu 50,000 to 65,000.
Whether the DPT or the DNT comes to power in Bhutan, its topmost priority should be to implement the pay hike recommendations of the PDP government.