Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Promise of Increased Quota - A Clear Indication of Lack of Morality

Seeing red and getting agitated in the wee hours sitting on the pot is not a very healthy way to start one’s day. But that is the emotion I went through this morning while reading TheBhutanese. As a Bhutanese, I cannot escape from the sin of being a part of the whole. And the whole is currently being besieged by the dream merchants peddling outlandish dreams that promise to bring riches and sweep away life long problems, as if by magic. The promises they make are born of greed - greed to win and greed to remain in power. The promises they make are shallow - that we can all tell. Unfortunately, these shallow and irrational promises are directed towards the same creed - greedy for free goodies and kidu and soelra.

I am particularly pained that even Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) whom I have supported in the last two elections has succumbed to this most vile of tactics - the offer of increased quota - in an effort to court the civil service’s votes.

Reading through TheBhutanese, I do not see a similar promise being made by the Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) or the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT). I salute them - clearly they have exhibited a superior level of principle and ethics. And clearly these two parties realize that singling out the civil service for wooing could back fire on them for, the larger vote bank is in the rural and the private and corporate sectors.

If the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and DPT are offering increased quotas to the civil service, why is the same not offered to the employees of the private sector and the corporate sector? After all, the tax and income generation by these sectors far outweigh what the civil service does. Are these two parties not recognizing the contributions made by the private and the corporate sectors?

The quota system is terribly flawed. It is not offered to those who deserve it. If the argument is that the civil servants are poorly paid, then it is not the lower rung of the civil service who are poorly paid that get the quota but the higher salaried ones who get it. If the argument that civil servants are poorly paid holds true, then go ahead and increase their salaries and TA/DA. Why is this an issue all the time?

Political parties must remember that civil servants are paid salaries for the work they are supposed to do. It is the private and corporate sectors and the villagers who work hard to put money into the coffers of the national exchequer that enables the government to pay the salaries of the civil service. If anything, these sectors should receive preferential treatment. If the civil servants’ salaries are inadequate - go ahead and pay them better. But certainly there is no justification to give them special quotas, when none is offered to those who actually generate income.

But the most shameful thing is that every one knows that the quotas are peddled by the civil servants at exorbitant premiums, to the highest private bidders. This is highly illegal - and yet these parties are making campaign promises to even further increase the quota entitlement, thereby affirming that they will contribute to the perpetuation of a brazen illegal act by the civil service. If they mean well for the country and the people of Bhutan, they should either do away with the system entirely, or rationalize it in a way that it is offered to those who deserve it.

At one level, the quota system creates a class distinction. At another, it is causing the country whole lot of loss of revenue. And still at another level, it helps to perpetuate an illegal activity by the civil service.

During a public talk last year by Mr. Martin Rama, World Bank’s Chief Economist of South Asia Region, he made the following points:

 “…… the decline in tax revenue in relation to GDP is not due to a change in tax instruments or in tax rates, but because of policy decisions of tax holidays and exemptions. Sales Tax exemptions result in 50 percent of foregone revenue. Further around 63 percent of all imported commodities are exempted from Custom Duties.”

“Instead of losing the tax revenue to exemptions that are not rational, efficient management of taxation could also play a vital role in attaining fiscal self-sufficiency.”

Our political parties need to think a little deeper than they are obviously doing. They have to keep in mind that even among the civil service, the quota receivers are in the minority. The promise of increased quota will, therefore, not make any sense to those civil servants who are outside the bracket of the privileged ones. But once you make a campaign promise, you will have to fulfill it, if you come to power. It is then that you will realize your promise has cost the country dearly.

But do you really care, beyond winning the elections?

No comments:

Post a Comment