People are tired of democracy: PM
A statement by the office of Prime Minister claimed people are tired of democracy, because of nature of the parties. PM claimed two parties in the past did not set good precedents.
The government has hit back at opposition Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) alleging the party for not cooperating with government. The statement issued by Office of the Prime Minister on Saturday claimed the opposition party has learnt only to oppose the actions of the government.
“While the opposition is entitled to their views, we found it necessary to put into perspective some of the accusations made and also shed light on a few issues raised. We were also surprised that the opposition made a lot of statements contradicting the deliberations in the last Parliament we saw. We were forced to think that there is a deliberate attempt by the opposition to misinform public,” the statement said.
The statement has questioned the role of opposition party in a democracy. ‘[It] is not just to oppose but also to support the government, if need be. But in our short experience as the government, we have realised that opposition’s duty is only to oppose and misinform the public,’ Prime Minister said.
‘Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa … were always keen about working with the opposition. Sadly, this remains a mere wish.’
Prime minister accused DPT of playing with divisive politics and claimed because of such policy the party failed to win the last election.
DPT had questioned the government of its intention when Zhemgang was removed from the list of district where flagship tourism programme was supposed to be launched. DPT claimed that the removal was part of punishment for Zhemgang people not voting DNT in last election. Both seats of the district were won by DPT.
The government replaced Zhemgang with Sarpang for the flagship programme.
‘We would like to request the opposition that they should change their mindset and come to where we are now, to unite the people and not divide them on political grounds,” the statement said.
Opposition DPT also questioned the sustainability of revised pay increase that passed the parliament. The law requires two-third majority, which the ruling party does not have.
The government questioned the intention of the opposition party who supported the bill in parliament but opposed outside parliament.
“The pay revision bill was endorsed with huge majority. That’s why we say that speaking one thing in the Parliament and saying something else outside is nothing but an attempt to create distress and disharmony among our people,” the statement reads.
Read the full statement here
July 6, 2019
The opposition party held a press conference on July 5, and touched on several topics. In the spirit of democracy, which is about diversity in views and ideas, we respect the opinions shared.
While the opposition is entitled to their views, we found it necessary to put into perspective some of the accusations made and also shed light on a few issues raised.
We were also surprised that the opposition made a lot of statements contradicting the deliberations in the last Parliament we saw. We were forced to think that there is a deliberate attempt by the opposition to misinform public. With these concerns, we met the press today and shared following details.
1. Role of opposition
We always thought that the opposition’s role, particularly in our democracy, is not just to oppose but also to support the government, if need be. But in our short experience as the government, we have realised that opposition’s duty is only to oppose and misinform the public.
Our public has closely followed the deliberations of the Parliament and know that the opposition has been a part of all the decisions that emerged in the Parliament, including the passing of the pay revision bill, as well as the budget.
It is unfortunate that a party, which has been in Parliament for the last two terms and now in their third, know only one thing- that you have to be ‘for’ if you are the government or ‘against’ if in opposition. There is no where in between where the two sides can work together.
For Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa this is our first opportunity in the Parliament, and we were always keen about working with the opposition. Sadly, this remains a mere wish.
2. Divisive tactics
The opposition was quoted in media saying, for the first time, the government has set a bad precedent and accused us of “outright political discrimination”.
This takes us back to the precedent set by the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, and it cannot be worse. This is also perhaps why people of Bhutan did not give them the opportunity to come back as government. The divisive role played by the opposition party is very unfortunate.
Our nation has 20 districts. Under the leadership of His Majesty the King, we are one people and we must work together. This is what we have been saying even during the campaign days.
We would like to request the opposition that they should change their mindset and come to where we are now, to unite the people and not divide them on political grounds.
The precedents and examples, set by the past two parties, have not been good for our people. Our people are tired of democracy, because of this very nature of the parties.
In everything we do, we put our country’s interest before the party’s. It is evident that for the opposition, the party precedes the interest of the country and people.
3. Pay revision
On the issues, first and foremost, the opposition comments that they do not agree with this pay revision and have questioned its sustainability.
We must also understand that following submission by the Fourth Pay Commission, the government carried out further consultation, and with some amendments, it was submitted to the Economic and Finance Committee, which had equal representation from the opposition and ruling. The assembly then deliberated the recommendations of the committee.
So, to pass the pay revision bill, we need a two third majority, which is 33 votes. The ruling has only 29 votes with Speaker chairing the session so the opposition could have killed the bill, if they wanted to. If all the opposition members opted not to vote with us, the bill would never have been passed.
Yet, you see the outcome of the vote. The pay revision bill was endorsed with huge majority. That’s why we say that speaking one thing in the Parliament and saying something else outside is nothing but an attempt to create distress and disharmony among our people.
4. Sustainability of pay revision
In the 10th Plan under the DPT government, the total capital outlay was Nu. 147 billion, compared with the outlay of Nu. 310 billion in the 12th Plan. They had 10 percent fiscal deficit, whereas the projected fiscal deficit in 12th Plan is 7.4 percent, which is expected to improve over the period of time.
When the country was in fiscal deficit of Nu. 4 billion, the first government used Nu. 5 billion for pay raise. This is the same party that is questioning us about pay raise amid “negative economic indicators”. The budget for pay revision proposed this term was already included in the outlay.
In less than a year, with additional grant mobilised, we could bring down the fiscal deficit by almost 27.5 percent from the projected deficit of Nu 29 billion.
During the first government’s tenure, the fiscal deficit plunged into negative for almost four years of their term, which adversely affected the overall economic growth. When the government term ended, the GDP dropped below 3 percent, the worst in the history of Bhutan.
Despite worrying economic scenario, where GDP had dropped below 3 percent, the first government went ahead with second pay revision (lump sum pay revision). Was it really the country they were worried about or the political mileage they were trying to garner?
During the 10th Plan, our domestic revenue contributed almost 60 percent of the Nu.147 billion as plan outlay. In the current Plan, we are working to contribute at least 80 percent of the Nu. 310B through our domestic revenue. Further, it is expected to improve with adoption of innovative financing mechanism, while observing the financial thrift. Moreover, during this plan, average GDP growth is expected between 6.5 to 7 percent with major focus into reducing income inequality.
During the economic down turn, the first government resorted to borrowing INR 10 billion to revive the rupee crunch in the country. The second government could clear INR 3 billion and we inherited the remaining debt.
5. Quality of teachers and health workers
The opposition questions the impact of pay revision on quality of health and education. The quality of health and education declined because the sectors did not receive the attention that they deserved in the past. Who is to blame?
With the incentives we have given them, media world around and some of our own media are praising Bhutan for the decisions that we have made. And yet we have a party that fails to see the impact and goodness that it has brought to the very important professions.
We have always explained that everyone is important, but these are the two sectors that require attention. We are yet to see their impact on quality but we are already seeing the impact on retention.
The pay revision for teachers and health workers, we were informed that thromde office is flooded by requests from teachers on extra ordinary leave seeking to resume as soon as possible. We are already seeing positive developments and that is what we want.
6. Who widened the gap?
With opposition criticizing us about our efforts to narrow gaps through pay revision, which is one of the means, we are compelled to remind how pay revision was carried out during DPT government.
It is for everyone to see how much increase was made for the ministers then and how much was raised for the people at the lower rung. For example, the ESP, which is the lowest serving public servant was given a raise to Nu 5,000 from Nu 3,500.
Their accusations are deprived of proper research and analysis. As we decreased the pay at the higher rung and substantially increased pay and allowances for people at the lower rung, we have ESPs and GSPs come to thank us for giving them opportunities to enhance their lives and lives of their children.
Will taking government Prados, along with quotas, narrow the gap? Will taking higher raise at the highest level narrow the gap? Will demanding perks and privileges narrow the gap?
These are the doings of this particular party when it served as government, raised the same demands during the second government’s term and now even in this Parliament, these are the same people who demanded increase in their pay and salaries. Yet, the government decided to bring it down.
7. Politicising Zhemgang
As stated earlier, this country is made up of 20 districts. We are all one people under one King.
Politically, there are only three regions of East, Central and West. So when we selected the districts, ideally, we should have taken only three districts representing three regions. But we took the fourth district in consideration of huge population in the Southern districts.
Initially, when the Tourism Development Flagship program was started, the focus districts were Dagana, Gasa, Lhuntse and Zhemgang.
However, in the last Parliament session, the opposition clamoured about opening all the southern borders to tourists. They even moved the motion and the resolution was passed. At that time, the government said there was inadequate infrastructure and lack of systems to monitor, besides the security issues it could pose.
Alongside, we relooked at the strategy. They were right. We found out that Sarpang has greatest opportunity of becoming the gateway for Bhutan, similar to what Phuntsholing does today.
Gelephu has an airport, which could be further developed. Immigration and custom check points need an uplift. While Sarpang becomes the gateway, beneficiary districts would be Tsirang, Zhemgang, Dagana, Trongsa and beyond.
Bhutan Tourism Monitor also revealed that Sarpang received only 231 tourists in 2018, one of the lowest in the country. Zhemgang received 332. Zhemgang received 931 bed-nights as opposed to only 309 for Sarpang. Sarpang was left behind.
There is also availability of land and space for further development in Sarpang, which is not the case for Zhemgang. Places like Panbang is already into ecotourism. As we continue to support Zhemgang as a “project based district”, we were convinced there were more advantages in shifting focus to Sarpang.
Our decision was never along the lines of politics. Had there been a political angle, we would not have put Zhemgang as a focus district to begin with. The opposition party is toying with people’s sentiments. They question the legality but which law have they cited?
Given its poverty ranking, Zhemgang has always been on our mind. A lot needs to be done. That is why, in the 12th Plan, Zhemgang (excluding budget for gewogs) has one of the highest allocation of Nu. 1.003 billion, whereas Sarpang has only Nu. 951 million.
The flagship program would operate with only Nu. 11 million for the focus dzongkhags, which is very less compared with what Zhemgang has been allocated.
Panbang Yenlag Throm under Zhemgang also gets Common Minimum Infrastructure (CMI) fund, whereas other bigger Yenlag Throms like Tsimasham and even Sarpang, do not. Had there been a political motive, we would have transferred this CMI fund to Sarpang or Tsimasham.
A total of Nu. 2.1 billion has been allocated to Zhemgang in the 12th Plan. Many development activities have been marked for the district and there is no reason for the people of Zhemgang to be concerned.
How can opposition accuse us of leaving Zhemgang behind?
We would like to reassure the people of Zhemgang that there is no reason to be concerned. The way opposition projects Zhemgang as being deprived of development priorities is far from truth. Please do not be carried away by the misplaced attitudes of our parliamentarians, who fail to see positivity in all this.
At the same time, it is also time to reflect on the way we are progressing, as a district and as a country. It is perhaps, time to change our mindset.
If Zhemgang has fallen behind in the last 10 years, please blame the past governments and specifically the past Parliament representatives. But if the district continues to remain so, even by the end of our tenure, please hold us accountable.
On our part, we are excited to work hard for the growth of Zhemgang and the rest of the country. As highlighted during the presentation of the State of the Nation report during the last Parliament, let us grow together as a nation.
One thought on “People are tired of democracy: PM”
Working hand in hand is the only solution for Bhutan’s devlopment. We are just over 7 lakhs population.
The opposition should not focus on gaining attention but support ruling government with ideas on tje way forward.