Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Bhutanese Polity: In A State of Deep Moral Depravity

“Bhutan has one MP for 9,000 citizens. The margin between those who serve our country and the population they serve is very narrow. In many countries, elected representatives will never get to know all their people, even if they spend an entire lifetime trying to do so. We have one elected representative for 380 citizens, one public servant to look after the needs of 14 citizens. As I have said before, it is not a question of whether we can do something or not, whether we have enough or not, whether we are permitted or not. The question is, are we going to do it or not.”
His Majesty’s Address to the 11th Convocation of the RUB
7 June 2017

The people of Bhutan elected DPT to form the first democratically elected government, in 2008. Five years later, the people decided that they didn’t do their job – they threw them out and elected the PDP to lead the way by placing them on the seat of power and governance. But the first thing PDP did was to spend precious parliamentary time discussing pay revision and parliamentary entitlements. They proudly declared to the world that Bhutan is the world’s only “carbon negative” country. Paradoxically, Bhutan saw the highest registration of motor vehicles during their tenure. By contrast, it was the DPT government who banned the import of vehicles, effectively preventing the abuse of vehicle quotas, while curtailing fossil fuel imports.

During the latest round of elections, the people demonstrated that they were unhappy with the PDP as well. PDP’s defeat during the 2018 elections was decisive – they did not even make it through the Primary rounds. DNT was the people’s choice. For a moment I believed that this lot of young and eloquent speakers was a set of lawmakers after my own heart - I even said so in answer to an American friend’s question on my views on the new government.

I was wrong – they clearly outdid the past two do-gooders: the just concluded National Assembly saw them spend over two weeks talking of pay revision and parliamentary entitlements.

The din and the cacophony of their verbosity reverberated the hallowed halls of the National Assembly. The eloquence was palpable; the august hall resonated with impressive words spoken with fluency and without halt. The pomp and pageantry was impressive. But what did not escape our attention was this: it was all too evident that the words and the intent behind them served only one purpose – their self-interest. The Parliamentary proceedings completely silenced out the one question His Majesty asked pointedly during the 11th Convocation of the RUB:

The question is, are we going to do it or not.

The question was completely ignored!

The 2nd session of the 3rd Parliament has come to an end. The lawmakers are now all set to submit the records of the proceedings and the resolutions thereof, to His Majesty the King, for His Royal assent, for their resolutions to come into effect as law. And this is where I believe that the Parliamentarians have failed in their responsibility to protect and preserve the sanctity and the inviolability of the Crown, which is the responsibility of every single Bhutanese.

My reasoning is simple: This lot of Parliamentarians – as did those others before them – will be submitting to the King for His Royal assent - something that they know very well will be misused and abused blatantly, as they have been done for the past many decades. The Parliamentarians will, collectively, be submitting to the King to accord His Royal assent – their resolution on the 4th Pay Commission’s Pay Revision recommendations. These recommendations would contain an inconspicuous matter dealing with vehicle quota entitlement and/or encashment thereof.

Now, my question to the Parliamentarians is this: Are you being His loyal and trusted subjects in seeking his Royal assent, on something that you are certain will unfailingly be abused? Do you do it because you know that His Majesty would consider it inappropriate for Him to take away a kidu, even if awarded by those in whose domain it is not to grant undeserved kidu?

Frankly I believe that pay raise is the prerogative of the incumbent government – I have no issues with it – if the government feels that they have the wherewithal to pay Nu.100,000.00 to a junior clerk, they are welcome to it. But certainly awarding underserved kidu is outside their domain.

Award of quota to some, in preference over others, is in itself an act of segregation among equals. This should never happen in a society that prides itself as a thinking society. However, if the government must, they should do so with a bit of intelligence. What the DNT government has done is worst than what it already was. While glibly putting out the falsehood that they have rationalized the underserved quota entitlement, they have in fact aggravated the problem even further.

On the one hand, the monetized value of Nu.250,000.00 for the public servants is far more than what they were getting for their quota sold illegally in the open market. The fixation of monetization value of the MP’s and the Cabinet Ministers’ and others at Nu.1,500,000.00 seems to have been derived from its black market value that ruled in the last year.

The DNT’s recommendations on the vehicle quota are terribly flawed, in addition to being unfair and costly for the country. The following is how I see it:

If the civil servants and the MPs and the Ministers get more than the monetized value of their quota from the open market, they will go ahead and shamelessly sell their quota in the open market and make tidy sums of undeserved monetary benefit. However, if they do not get their asking price, which would be higher than the monetized value of their quota, they will do a quick turn around and offer to sell their quota to the government, at the monetized sum. The government has no choice but to buy the quota and pay the recipients the monetized value of the quota, as promised.

This transection is not only profane – but there is another immoral side to it: the government is in effect helping the unjustified quota recipients to turn ill-gotten gains into legitimate money, by enchasing the quota.

It is sad.

There are a select number of people on whom His Majesty placed His trust and faith. He has adorned them with Bura Marp and Patang and put them in positions of authority and responsibility. He has 5 eminent Members in the National Council - to do things and direct affairs in a way He envisions for the country and the people of Bhutan. This privileged lot should, by virtue of being hand picked by the King, ensure that good counsel is provided to the erring politicians and the civil service. Punishingly costly recommendations such as the vehicle quota entitlement should have never been allowed to find its way into the Parliamentary resolutions. But it has – and it is now all poised for Royal assent.

This lot has failed the King and the country, as have others before them – His Majesty’s trust and faith was clearly misplaced - they failed to do what the King thought they would, on His behalf. They failed to comprehend that the King is the dispenser of kidu - not a usurper of it.

I have said this many a times in the past - that given our population size, all that we need is just 10 hard working people to propel this country to unmatched glory. Unfortunately we have only one out of the ten needed, who is working tirelessly. The rest are vile opportunists, with the country's interest furthest from their agenda!


  1. Good observations yet you failed to balance your article, particiularly on vehicle quota. You should have calculated how much revenue is earning, if quota is bought by the government, through collection duties and sales tax? This shows how jelous you are on civil servant's entitlements.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you for reading my post. I urge you to reconsider what you wrote -- there seems to be a complete disconnect between what I mean and what your understanding is.

      Bye and take care

    2. Vehicle quota and duty free items for the MPs and elected members sound a little too cheap...... the under privileged ones are the civil servants, MPs and elected members, whilst the rest of country fellow are privileged ones. Therefore the privileged ones should pay taxes for the under privileged civil servants, MPs and elected mebers claim that they are doing more by servicing the people. I think these lot are servicing the people by taking the larger junk of the tax payers money instead of proving that the tax-payers money is used for development activities. May be it should be called self-development.