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The proposed pay revision

The Pay Commission’s report on the salary revision is out. By late last night, the math had been done to look for the “Wow” factor.

The joke going around is there is only “Pou” and “Aoow’ factor, indicating that the proposed revision is again benefiting the ministers, parliamentarians and top civil servants, not the “common” man or civil servant.

The government had suggested that the revision come with a “wow” factor. This raised expectations. With calculations done, many are venting the frustration of another top-heavy proposal.

To put into context, the government didn’t propose the revision. It was the independent Pay Commission. It is upto the government and the Parliament to make the final call.

The reality is that no pay revision can make everyone happy.

In fairness, the recommendation to benefit the lowest level of public servants most is a sound decision keeping in mind the gap. The amount may still be insignificant for many, but it is better than a uniform raise across the board. With the raise, the lowest group are also proposed performance-based incentives, provident fund and housing allowance, which takes the overall benefit to 77 percent. Those in the group will feel the difference.

The Commission’s proposal to monetise vehicle quota, a privilege that is often being questioned, should be welcomed. The quota despite being misused is attributed to the increasing number of vehicles, as one quota is enabling the purchase of two vehicles. Civil servants would prefer Nu 800,000 than selling the quota for Nu 180,000.

A notable recommendation is the performance-based incentives (PBI). PBI is recommended to promote meritocracy, excellence and improve service delivery. It is already a norm in many public corporations. Although the system initially met with some reservations, it is doing wonders in companies that embraced it. There will be resistance, as the civil servant is still entangled in qualifications, seniority and sometimes relationships. It is sensitive and controversial. But there are professional ways to do it. If the performance of an employee is judged by his cooking skills at his boss’s choku and not in office, it will create problems.

The questions are on the allowances. The allowance system is controversial. One criticism coming out loud is on the Nu 10,000 Red scarf allowance, which many feel is almost at par to the proposed salary of an ESP staff.

The housing allowance when calculated on the revised basic salary creates a huge difference. Highest rank officials in the civil service, who own or rent out flats, get 71 percent raise while it is only 29 at the lowest level. Some are wondering why the Commission forgot recommending housing allowance based on towns or dzongkhags where public servants live and work. Others wonder why the driver allowance paid to parliamentarians who pocket the allowance without recruiting drivers is revised.

The Commission should be commended on their proposal for indexing pay revision to inflation. Pay revision has become a campaign tool. Salary has to be revised from time to time. Leaving it to be politicised is not healthy. This recommendation will test elected governments.

The report was made public for discussion. This is good, but nowhere is a government salary revision decided by the public. If the “wow” factor is missing, the government shouldn’t shy away from not being able to reduce the gap.

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