Quite a ruckus and heated argument of sorts were imbuing in many forums, just a month before the primary election this year, when the Prime Minister (then having had resigned as the Opposition Leader) retuned his official duty vehicle that was granted to him back to the government, citing that the country couldn’t afford to set such a precedent when it was going through an economic crisis.
Many thought that the move was a mere tactic to garner political mileage by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, petty and debauched. And some couldn’t help, but applaud this austere gesture, reasoning how much it would save the government exchequer if all the other ministers and equivalent posts were to do the same. Another reason being at that time that the economy merited more prudent measures.
And after PDP was given the mandate to form the government, the ruling party is all geared up again, in what they call a small bid on their part, to revive the economic situation by taking some major austerity measures in the wake of the current state of the economy, growing public debt, Indian Rupees dearth, and ever increasing current expenditure.
During the 4th sitting of the Cabinet on Friday, austerity measures were to be adopted in nine areas to curtail unnecessary and excessive spending. Measures include not adopting the new pay scales recommended for the ministers of the second Parliament, Prime Minister deciding to continue living in his private residence, reducing security personnel for the Cabinet and subsequent withdrawal of pilot escort for movements within Thimphu and Paro.
Keeping ex-country travel at a minimum and no formal reception or see-off line at the airport, revising Chadri Protocol, reducing hospitality and entertainment expenses to bare minimum, unavailing domestic staff facility, and making no political appointments in the Cabinet Secretariat were other decisions, besides also deciding that no new vehicle will be procured by the government until the economic situation improves.
Unquestionably, the recent move from the Cabinet deserves applauses. It’s only imaginable how much money would have been saved if curtailment of wasteful public expenditure had been implemented when problems first started emerging in the economy, almost more than a year from now. But it’s never too late to do the right thing.
These austerity measures adopted by the government could also set a precedent for the future parties and politicians. All in all, it’s a reminder that the posts of the prime minister, ministers and politicians are not always about grandeur and luxury, and that the benefit to the nation and people must always come first before personal benefits. Simply, that is what ‘answering to the call of the nation’ is all about.