Thursday, December 20, 2018

That Creed Of Humanoids Called Civil Servants

On December 17, 2018, I was a most desperate man!

Desperate because I missed the most substantial part of His Majesty the King’s 111th National Day Address from Samtse. As usual, I was at my computer by 5.00AM so that I have time in hand to complete whatever urgent work I needed to attend to, before I start to grope for the remote to switch on the BBS TV to listen to His Majesty’s nationwide address. No luck - my work took me way past the address time. Damn! I missed it.

Not one to be outdone, I timed my day’s evening visit to my favorite bar to coincide with the 7.00PM BBS News broadcast when I was sure they would rebroadcast the speech. They did – but some irritatingly verbose monks and some dullards completely sozzled out of their minds made so much noise it was impossible to hear my King speak. So I decided to abandon the place and head home and watch the rebroadcast on my own TV, within the comfort of my own home. Bad luck once again - no dang signals!

I got up in the morning of 18th …. Still no signal. I put on the TV again during lunch time ---- still no dang signals.

It turns out that my cable operator had some issues so I wasn’t getting any signals. However, day-before-yesterday late night I finally managed to record my King’s speech - whole of it and verbatim! And it was all worth it.

Since the advent of television in the country, I have unfailingly tried to listen to my King’s National Day address to the nation. For, on this day, He makes the most significant pronouncements, giving His subjects a peek - a hint into the past, the present and the future. In fact what He says on that day gives us a sense of how the nation fares.

His Majesty’s National Day address to the nation on our 111th National Day was as profound as ever - with one distinct exception – what He did NOT say outright was a mouthful.

His Majesty expended close to half His speech on the CIVIL SERVANTS - civil servants - that creed of humanoids who are neither civil, nor servants, as I have said many a times in the past.

From the 30th sentence on, 32 of the total 72 sentences of His Majesty’s speech dwelled on the civil servants.

Significantly, His Majesty’s 30th sentence from whence He begins to draw reference to the civil servants, begins thus:

“During the National Day celebration in 2013, I spoke at length about the important roles and responsibilities of the civil servants. Five years later, I feel that it is an appropriate time to, once again, reflect on the important services provided to the nation by civil servants as a new government takes office and prepares to implement plans of national importance.”

Meaning that the civil service has failed to fulfill their responsibilities and play their roles.

His Majesty’s 60th and 61st sentences that end His discourse on the civil servants has a strong message, as follows:

“If, in the next 10 to 15 years, we achieve all our national objectives, the credit will go to our public servants. However, if we fail, it will mean that the public servants have failed.”

Meaning in all likelihood – the civil service will yet again fail to live up to His Majesty’s expectations.

His Majesty’s sentences from 42nd to the 45th are particularly painful to read. He speaks of the civil servants’ global exposure to differing work cultures, their familiarity with emerging technologies, new ways of doing things - arising out of their countless international travels. His Majesty talks of their extensive travel within the country - that which gives them valuable insights into what ails the country.

His Majesty does not make mention of the fact that the only reason the civil servants vie to make those countless foreign trips are to line their own pockets and not to learn or acquire valuable knowledge so that they may help the country.

His Majesty rolls out a most stunning statistics in His 54th sentence: He informs the nation that for every 13 Bhutanese, there is one civil servant! Imagine!

And yet, in spite of all that human capital, His Majesty is so kind that He does not go so far as to say that our progress, if there has been any, is, at most, dismal. Obviously His Majesty’s inference here is that all these 54,000 public servants are none-serving human capital. But here His Majesty does not fail to point out that all 54,000 of them “are granted salaries and benefits by the state”.

His Majesty also points out that the civil servants must learn to correct past mistakes, be receptive to feedbacks, must not be complacent and indifferent and learn to be accountable. Meaning, they are not all of those.

Interestingly, while His Majesty is drawing references to the civil servants in Samtse on national TV with the greatest of restraint, a friend of mine in the US was thinking of our civil servants too – look what she has to say of them:

A mail from a friend in the US - expressing her sentiments about our civil servants

It is a pity. But I have no hopes that they will improve at all. Their problem is pathological and deep rooted. Their interest is personal and not national. They do not serve the people and the country - they survive solely to serve themselves and their self-interest. If His Majesty were to start hammering them now - in three decades time they might just begin to start to change. What can be said of a group of people who not only do not do their job - they cannot recognize those who do?

Corruption is so rampant and blatant - think of the brazen peddling of the car and duty free quota and you want to puke. ACC knows about it and yet they will do nothing about it.

Today I am not going to point out the mistakes of the civil servants - if I do, it will run into thousands of pages. But I do want to end this post with a prayer to the civil servants: please do not cause so much pain to our King. Leave Him with enough time to do his job - not yours.


  1. I agree with you a 1000%. It is sad that a small country like ours have such self serving civil servants. See little scope for change unless a government comes in that will think about the country first!!!

  2. Thank you for this post! I was amazed that Kuensel thought His Majesty was highlighting the importance of the Civil Service. The irony and the sarcasm subtly put forth by His Majesty was totally lost not he editor. And of course the seriousness of the fact that the civil service has no more excuses. The problem with our bureaucracy is that there is too much of a 'chamchagiri' culture. Always anything to please the boss, or Lyonpo, or Gokha. In fact chamcha projects drain our limited resources. Every politician or minister thinks that he/she is now in favor of Gokha and therefore will drum up all efforts to carry out chamcha projects. What HM always says about serving our country intelligently is lost on them. These bureaucrats are the 'opening ceremony' and 'closing dinner' crowds. They are always present to show their face and hobnob with the who's who, and then leave when its time for the real work to be done. In fact, there are so many young chiefs who are intelligent, passionate, and eager to bring about good change. We should invest in mentoring them and giving them the resources and the platform to perform. Our civil service is bloated already. As HM rightly put it, 1 public servant for every 13 Bhutanese. We should be able to solve every problem in the country!

    1. There are many thing to takeaway from the His majesty's speech. However, you need to be mindful with your interpretation. The complacency of civil servants are not from their within, its the system which make them to act so. No room for new idea, no appreciation for the initiatives, and the fear of the intervention from above is always prevail within then. I have a sense that the civil servants are the defato actors in the bureaucracy system. Where is autonomy in the system? You must be knowing the fact if you are one concern.

      I don't know your service to tsawa sum. We would much appreciate if you would share your achievements for this peaceful nation.

      Also mind your interpretation and make it comfortable for all.

  3. Then.... the hope is to take private sector seriously. Only then can nation prosper. Time to Empower good business people in private sector. But alas again.... civil servants are always envious of the private sector.