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Government “surprised” by Opposition’s criticisms on pay revision

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said that the Opposition’s post-Parliament comments on the pay revision were a deliberate attempt to misinform the public.

At a press conference on July 5, the Opposition said that pay revision caused discrepancies and disgruntlement among civil servants due to the government’s decision to provide high allowances for a select section of professionals.

The foreign minister on Saturday called a press conference at the Ministers’ Enclave to counter the arguments, where he said that the Opposition was party to all the decisions taken by the Parliament, including the pay revision bill. He said the Opposition’s use of strong and divisive words to fuel people’s sentiments forced the government to call its own press conference.

“We were surprised by the Opposition making comments,” he said.

He said that the government expected the Opposition to play a positive role, not only by opposing, but also by supporting the government.

“While they support the government decisions in the Parliament, as soon as they come out of the Parliament their views are totally changed and inform the public that they were not a party to the decisions,” Dr Tandi Dorji said.

Dr Tandi Dorji said it was unfortunate that a party that has been in the Parliament thrice knew only one thing – to be “for” while in the government and “against” while in the Opposition.

He added the Opposition lacked a sense of working together.

“As you have seen, we have taken a positive stand to the comments made by the Opposition in Parliament. We have voted against a motion moved by our own MPs and supported the Opposition’s,” he said.

“They accuse us of setting a bad precedent. But in our opinion, this particular party set the worst precedent. The worst is now gone. That’s why the people have Bhutan have not given them [the Opposition] the opportunity to form a government again,” the foreign minister said.

He said it was said that the Opposition had politicised the government’s decision to shift the tourism flagship programme from Zhemgang to Sarpang.

“I would like to request the Opposition to change their mindset and come where we are today to unite the people,” he said, adding that people should not be divided on political grounds.

He accused the Opposition of trying to “keep democracy where it was” when it was in power. “They have forgotten that it’s not People’s Democratic Party (PDP); it is now Nyamrup Tshogpa, which is wanting to work very closely,” adding that the precedent set by the past two governments were not worth following.

While acknowledging that teachers and health professionals deserve more, the Opposition said that there were no indicators to see how the increased pay would improve the quality of education and health care services.

Foreign minister blamed lack of attention from the past governments for a decline in the quality of education and health services. He said that the two sectors required attention.

“We are yet to see the impact on quality, but we are already seeing the impact on retention.”

The opposition had not given enough to lower-rung civil servants when it was in power, the foreign minister said, adding that the government decreased the pay at the higher rung and substantially increased pay and allowances for people at the lower rungs.

MB Subba 

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