Monday, March 18, 2013

DEBT - Fuel of Growth

Seems like talking DEBT has suddenly come into vogue this season. Now it is Fareed Zakaria of the CNN who has this morning announced that China is in big, big trouble - debt trouble. He says that China’s total public and private debt is upwards of 200% of its total GDP. China in such huge debt???? Unbelievable!

Seems like being in debt has become fashionable. Even if that is not true, what is becoming apparent is that all modern economic activities are fueled by DEBT - both external as well as internal.

To be debt free is to put life on hold.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gyalpoizhing Case Verdict: Court’s Contrarian View

Mongar Dzongkhag Court Justice Gembo Dorji seems to be in no doubt that the Kaja of 1987 was a “provisional law then”. By definition, “provisional law” means a law that is temporary in nature - something that is promulgated in the interim, something that is, at best, conditional and that which is subject to change when a more permanent and binding law is enacted. Such a law or Act was passed in 1999 titled “The Bhutan Municipality Act of 1999” which came into effect as of 28th July, 1999.

The Kaja under reference is in the form of a letter of transmission dated 31st March, 1987 and signed by the Secretary to His Majesty the IVth Druk Gyalpo, Dasho Pema Wangchen conveying His Majesty’s Kaja.

The Hon’ble Mongar Drangpoen is explicit in his ruling that the two defendants have been pronounced guilty for the sole reason that they did not adhere to the Royal Kaja of 1987. He categorically states that had the defendants abided by the Kaja, he would have acquitted them of all charges. In other words, in the view of the learned Judge, rest of the charges is trivial and unworthy of consideration.

Given such a ruling by the Mongar Dzongkhag Court, the case now takes on a different hue.

The Judge’s statement to the Kuensel is clear that the court did not consider the ACC’s original charges which pertained to official misconduct, acts of favoritism, failing to exercise due diligence, of having broken laws and exceeded authority or that the defendants impinged on the Municipal Act of 1999 etc. According to the learned Judge, the case is all about NOT ABIDING by the Sovereign’s Kaja.

Such a verdict raises certain questions:

1Does the court find the ACC’s charges baseless and therefore unworthy of consideration for the reason for which the court pursued a different line of argument?

2Does a Kaja, which the Justice agrees is “provisional” in nature and conveyed during a time when an appropriate Act was not in place, still remain valid even after an Act dealing with the issue has been enacted?

3.  During the time of the Monarchy, a Dzongda was appointed under the direct command of His Majesty the King. Their appointments were a Royal prerogative. Traditionally the Dzongdas assumed the role of the Monarch’s Kutsap in the Dzongkhags. I cannot recall any precedence where the Executive or the Judiciary has acted against the King’s appointees - unless His Majesty willed it.

4.  Is a wrong precedence being set when the ACC and the Judiciary is attempting to bring charges against persons who are appointees of the Druk Gyalpo? Are these institutions overstepping their authority?

In my view, it should be the prerogative of the King to act as He sees fit in the matter. The ACC should frame their charges and compile their findings and the Judiciary should render their interpretation of the laws and make a joint submission to the King - but leave it to His Majesty to pronounce the verdict and command the appropriate action to be taken.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Setting The Right Precedence II

The Bhutanese democracy is like a newborn whose umbilical cord has not yet been severed from the placenta that still remains lodged in the uterus of the mother. In the cycle of life, we are in the third stage of labor where only the fetus has been successfully delivered from the womb - rest of the birth process is still pending - meaning that the birth of the newborn is only half complete.

And yet, look at how far we have come - rather, look at how far we have gone.

The same people who glibly remind us that democracy has been a gift from the Throne are the same ones who are quick to look the gift horse in the mouth. These people who are so quick to toot the horn of democracy miss out on one fundamental truth: in Bhutan, democracy as an alternate form of governance is yet to see the light of day. However, democracy is here and we have to learn to live with it. Whether democracy is right for Bhutan, whether its time has arrived, whether the Bhutanese people are ready for it - all these questions must now remain mute. Bhutanese as a society must come together to make democracy work and we must draw upon our invisible bond - our culture - to make democracy work for us.

Unfortunately, however, we seem to be shedding our culture too fast, too early.

Democracy does not give the Bhutanese people an excuse to lose sight of our culture. Our moral values, our lifestyle, our religion, the very way we think and behave have been guided and shaped by our culture spanning over many centuries. Thus, it seems impossible that we can forget our culture in a span of less than five years. And yet, some recent incidences indicate that we are indeed loosing site of our value system.

Some wrong precedences are being set, under the democratic system. The ongoing legal case involving Gyalpoizhing land allotment is a case in point.

This is a case that is close to two decades old. It happened during an era when things were done differently; when ground realities were not as simple or as straightforward. It happened during a time when unconventional means had to be employed to make things happen, to move things forward. The compulsions under which past administrations performed is something beyond the fathoming of the present lot of people.

More importantly, the present democratic setup does not have the moral authority to question an incident that happened at a time when the administration was under the country’s most competent and best loved monarch.

Digging the past is not a winning way for Bhutan. It only serves to further the cause of some evil people who do not wish well for the country. The Bhutanese people ought to remember that we have arrived where we are today because not every thing that went on in the past was wrong or undesirable.

The past is an integral and an inseparable part of our present, and future. Not even God has the competence to alter the past - which is exactly how it should be. In fact, it is dangerous to attempt to do so - because in trying to do so, we are likely to peril our present and endanger our future.

As I have mentioned in one of my earlier posts, we neither have the financial resource nor the manpower to waste on digging up the past. We would do well to focus on our present and our future problems, which are substantial.

Gyalpoizhing case is a dangerous precedence. Everyone must work hard to put this distasteful matter behind us. If not, we can be sure that there will be a thousand similar cases that will surface to haunt us to eternity.

Let us not play into the hands of the evil mongers.