The appropriateness of the revision

The government has cast aside doubt on pay revision for civil servants for the time being, after announcing that it had recommended the pay commission to look into the matter, but this has not stopped exchange on social networking sites and online forums.

Many are wondering whether the pay revision, as pledged by the ruling government before the election this year, would come in lump-sum or percentage wise. Few even feel that the revision is unlikely to happen this time, especially looking at the present predicament of the country’s economy.

But a question that deserves reckoning is whether the salary raise is timely or not? The revision would indubitably come as a good news for many, but there are a host of other concerns too.

How appropriate and reasonable is the pay hike when the government itself is on an austerity measure at the ministerial level? When the country itself is on a borrowing spree from India and the augmenting national debt? And especially when donor countries’ aid and support are getting limited.

Additionally, there is also disgruntlement that the pay hike would only be good for high level officials while civil servants in the lower rung and private sector employees would have to wait with bated breath to experience the looming ripple effects the raise is likely to bring along.Word cloud concept illustration of minimum wage glowing light effect

House rents in the country especially in urban towns like Thimphu and Phuentsholing are already exorbitant. House owners must be already mulling over increasing the rent. The prices of commodity, which is already experiencing inflation, will only go up. These are two tangible effects that could happen in the wake of the pay raise. Income disparity and the gap between the haves and have-nots are also likely to grow.

The government, therefore, will have to look into these aspects. It should also be ready about controlling inflation and regulating market prices. There is a need to improve living standards but that cannot happen by hiking up salaries of a group of people. The overall vision is to take into consideration the larger picture. How would the pay raise impact the lives of a roadside worker, a wage earner, a construction laborer or a driver etc.?

And as such, why cannot the government give a bottom-up pay raise – with those at the lowest level of bureaucracy getting the highest raise? We are talking about peons, drivers, office assistants and others.

The pay raise must eventually improve lives of Bhutanese civil servants by providing them that extra buck and purchasing power. But what use it is if the extra money through the pay hike goes in supplementing the hiked house rents and cost of commodities? And what is the use if the people who haven’t got the deserved raise have to bear the burden equally with those who have got one?

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Living in the digital age

This is the way that the world ends, not with a bang, but with a “Twitter” or “Facebook.”digital-age

ROFL, OMG!  BTW, FYI. Dylan Thomas would definitely not “go gently” if he could see the future of today’s global youth. Certain experts even argue that culture, tradition and morality are withering away as a result of the rise of the digital age especially in some western countries.

There are also reported instances of the new media or social media having a bearing on the social health of young people as they spent countless hours interacting with it. The trend is gradually picking up in Bhutan too. More youth are aggressively getting into social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

And as such, there might be a lurking danger too if the trend goes on to mutate the identity of Bhutanese youth. Violent movies and video games are already popular among the youth. A group of young boys forming a gang in Thimphu earlier after watching the movie ‘Crows’ is a testimony of the trend.

And given the limited local content for youth, most of them are exposed to global content – A sole national channel against a whopping 70 channels – both regional and international. A censorship bureau as such may be pivotal here, but it should exist to review what is being watched albeit not to the point of being too draconian.

Perhaps, we can also take respite in the fact that the implications of digital revolution’s entrance to Bhutan may not necessarily be a negative one. The situation presently isn’t grave, but it certainly raises the need for being cautious and vigilant, and educating users of the content in these media.

World Wide Web and social media are transcending borders, and there is no denying the fact that media exposure and content do influence young people’s health, development and behavior.

The majority of youth in the developed countries, the heart of the digital revolution in many ways, is bereft of their bond to the tangible aspects of daily life, culture or morality, according to reports. They have rather become “Facebook zombies” and cerebral slaves to the latest game released on the Xbox or the Wii. Books seem to be a thing of the past, replaced by blogs, Wikipedia, status updates, and WeChat.

Regardless of any governmental endeavor to reduce the impact of these media on the Bhutanese youth, the real efforts will ultimately come in the form of diligent parental guidance. Awareness of the media to which each child is exposed to, involvement in education and control of exposure to various mediums is up to individual parents.

Technological advancement is inevitable. It, therefore, becomes more important that great care is taken, and the mediums and technology employed are used in moderation. More importantly, enabling the young people to separate the wheat from the chaff is what should be more imperative.

Dismantling the barriers

Nothing much happened in the first local government elections and in the subsequent elections that followed this year when it was about women taking political berth in the country. cactus spines with drops

Except for the works and human settlement minister, who will go down in the annals of Bhutanese history as the first woman minister, results for most women in these elections came out quite unexpectedly.

It is, therefore, heartening for Bhutanese democracy that organizations related to women last week have taken the lead to prepare women and encourage them to come forward for the local government elections in 2016 and take part in the democratic process.

A workshop to encourage more women participation in the next local government elections ended in Punakha last Thursday with about hundred women from six western districts taking part in the workshop.

Similarly, another event titled ‘Bhutan Women Forward’ was held here in the capital yesterday, targeted towards more inclusion of women in politics and democracy.

These indications, therefore, bode good news for our democracy as an increased women’s representation in Parliament or local governments for that matter will ensure that women’s voices are heard equally when it comes to making decisions that most affect their world.

The numbers are presently dispiriting in the Parliament as well as the local governments, with the current statistics of women reportedly at 6.9 percent in the local government level. And as such, whether the present number would change is definitely something to see.

Many purport the notion that politics is a male dominated field. This notion should subtly change if women are to make a difference or if this meager number is to change. If instances are anything to go by, stereotypical attitude against women, which is rampant in rural areas, perhaps has also obstructed women from being elected in politics. This is sadly true.

Because of such attitude, how often women without even realizing it stop reaching for new opportunities is also described profoundly by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg in her book ‘Lean In’, who says that from an early age, girls get the message that they will have to choose between succeeding at work and being a good wife and mother.

She argues that women internalize the negative messages they get throughout their lives – the messages that it is wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men, and pull back when they should lean in.

We need to do more than facilitating women’s entry into politics. A thing for a start could be with changing this attitude. And thereon, we could also envision a prospect akin to that of Sandberg, where in the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders!

The resignation conundrum

Quite a lengthy debate and an exchange of arguments were ostensible during the discussion in the National Assembly (NA) last week on amending the provisions in the Acts regarding the resignation of elected Members of the Parliament (MPs).

The three Acts particularly were the National Assembly Act 2008, the National Council Act 2008 and the Local Government Act 2009. The NA deputy speaker moved the motion to amend these Acts in the wake of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) president and the winning candidate of Nanong-Shumar constituency Jigmi Y Thinley’s resignation about a month back after the elections.  

The amendment, it was contended, will help streamline the resignation procedures which were said to presently have ambiguities. And some argued that it would help save extra expenditure that is incurred while holding by-elections.

Not just about deploying security and officials, there is no denying the fact that it will also save people, particularly in those constituencies, from the troubles of having to vote time and again.

This would perhaps even help prepare the parliamentarians for unforeseen experiences, the kind of situation that caught them surprisingly when the DPT president submitted his resignation.

Some members expressed that the Acts were proposed for amendment to strengthen and ascertain the resignation procedures. But what merits more discussion is don’t we have enough provisions in these Acts when it comes to resignation.npr

There are already provisions that allow elected members to resign in these Acts. Certain observers closely monitoring the session feel that there are other more important issues to be deliberated that concern people’s lives and problems than the resignation issue.

As this is the first session of the second Parliament and happening at a time when there are other more pressing issues, it’s only expected that our MPs exhibit better sense and wisdom, especially priority and urgency, while submitting issues for Parliamentary debates. Or does the incident reaffirmed that there is still a long way to go?

Unquestionably, the MPs have absolute freedom of speech and expression, but how would it help if what concern us are about taking potshots against each other? What if it’s only about resorting to slur each other? Doing so, we would not only be disrespecting and undermining the sanctity of the institution of the Parliament.

The rule of the law per se is pivotal in a democracy. But perhaps a greater delving into the meaning of democracy would also do us good. If democracy is all about the rule of the law, it’s also about choices. Just like people have the freedom to make choices, there should also be freedom for an elected member to either stay or call it a quit. And anyway, what good will it do to have an elected member coerced to serve against his/her will?