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How about introducing Disadvantage Compensation Allowance?

It’s an undeniable fact that civil servants, corporate employees and almost everyone want to crowd into Thimphu. Thimphu is bursting at the seams while other towns wear a dismal look. Living and working in Thimphu means being close to the head office, the best referral hospital in the country, being close to myriad other opportunities and conveniences. A person living elsewhere is disadvantaged when it comes to accessing these services that the capital city provides. Almost every opportunity seems to originate in Thimphu. Be it training, foreign travel, access to government services, business opportunities et-cetera. Civil servants stationed in remote locations often miss out on ex-country trainings simply because there wasn’t enough time for him to make it on time. Other times, they wouldn’t even be aware of opportunities that come with short notice. As the most happening place, civil servants in Thimphu have better investment opportunities, be it in buying a plot of land or business consideration. Those in Thimphu are most likely to have post retirement backup plan than their counterparts in remote areas. 

If a civil servant in Udzorong plans on studying in Australia, he will have to avail about 10 days leave to process his documents, visit the hospital for examination, get his documents notarized and process his visa application. Not to mention the financial burden of such an effort. His colleagues in Thimphu can simply sneak out of office to get all these done without availing leave and cost. Healthcare facility is one of the biggest advantages of taking up residence in Thimphu. In the absence of comparable healthcare facility elsewhere within the country, civil servants with aging parents or dependents with health issues find Thimphu the best place to live in.  

The farther you are from Thimphu, the greater the disadvantage. It is no wonder no one wants to budge from Thimphu.

A recent article in Kuensel highlighting the problems faced by Health Ministry in sending doctors out of Thimphu is an apt example of “crowding” in Thimphu. I assume similar challenges are faced by other government agencies.

Perhaps the new government can now be more cognizant of this fact and implement measures to bring parity in advantage of working away from Thimphu by introducing what could be termed “disadvantage allowance” for those stationed away. A strategy to reward and convince civil servants to serve in remote locations more willingly.

To begin with, classification of towns should be done based on access to healthcare facilities, education, other public services, cost of living and economic vibrancy of that locality. The allowance should be based on proximity to such facility and proximity to Thimphu. Let’s take Mongar town for instance. It has a Referral Hospital (albeit sans doctor), it’s the district head office and certain public services are available, but can never beat Thimphu. So Thimphu must be considered “Ground Zero” where exist all the favorable conditions and advantages of working and living. Thimphuites will argue that Thimphu is the most expensive place in the country. But the fact remains that everyone wants to live in Thimphu. Therefore Thimphu must offer something that offsets the other disadvantages.

I have prepared a hypothetical illustration of the rationale of  “disadvantage allowance” with few sample cases just in case the policy makers never looked at it from this angle. 

Three factors have been considered. 

a. Thimphu as a factor (it is assumed that no other town will ever match the facilities, services and other advantages that Thimphu provides). Thimphu as ground zero is assigned zero point.

b. Major hub (major towns and district head office where certain services and public facilities are available). Each major hub is categorized based on the services and facilities available in it. The categorization could also include parameters such as existence of central school, college, healthcare facility, gas station, cost of living, public transport, entertainment and sporting facilities etc.  The more advantage the town provides, the less point it gets.

c. The actual place of work where an employee is stationed. Point is allotted based on the distance to the nearest major hub. For instance, the nearest major hub of Kamji is Phuentsholing. 

The following two parameters have been used to calculate point. 

a. Proximity of the major hub to Thimphu

b. Proximity of the workplace to nearest major hub

For sake of illustration, I have assigned hypothetical points as illustrated in the diagram below. 

Case 1:

A person stationed in Dorokha gets a total of 7 points ( 2 points for proximity to the nearest major hub which is Samtse, 3 for major hub classification of Samtse and another 2 points for proximity of Samtse to Thimphu. 

Case 2:

A person stationed in Samdrupcholing gets a total of 9 points (3 point for proximity to the nearest major hub, which is Samdrupjongkhar, 2 for major hub classification of Samdrupjongkhar and another 4 for proximity of Samdrupcholing to Thimphu. 

Case 3:

A person stationed in Ura gets a total of 7 points (2 for proximity to the nearest major hub, which is Bumthang town, 3 for major hub classification of Bumthang and another 3 for proximity of Bumthang to Thimphu. 

The calculation is similar for other cases.

Assuming each point is valued at Nu 500, the disadvantage allowance for each work location is tabled below

I only hope this is worth deliberating 

Note:

All figures, grading and points mentioned are hypothetical conjecture, and meant only for illustration. A real research should be conducted to classify the towns based on services, facilities and other advantages offered by the town. Likewise the points for proximity to Thimphu and proximity to nearest major hub also could be determined based on actual distance.

Contributed by 

Pema Tashi

Managing Proprietor,

Build Youth Bhutan  ECPF

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