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The salary revision debate

There was drama, tension and even humour at the National Assembly yesterday as members deliberated on the government’s proposed salary revision.

Outside the Assembly hall, thousands were watching with attention, the marathon session, which went into late evening. The Assembly endorsed to increase the salary of the Chief Justice of the Supreme court and Speaker of the National Assembly at par with the Prime Minister.

The Chairperson of the National Council, representing future Chairpersons, has not “kept shut.” The Chairperson has made his concern, of excluding the Chairperson of the National Council from the group, public through a social media post, citing relevant provisions of the law.

Will this change when the Council takes a look at the proposed revision? The house of review can only recommend on the revision, submitted as a Money Bill.

The opposition has challenged the government to not take the salary revision of even 6 percent. The proposal was not accepted. Whether people call it a political stunt or a well-intended proposal, the public enjoyed the debate. Will it gain any political mileage or did it make any sense at all? People will decide.

Pay revision is important. Therefore, the discussions are followed with keen interest. It impacts thousand of public servants and their families. It will also have implications on other sectors – the public corporations. Those in the private sector, unfortunately, will only bear the brunt of a pay revision.

No pay revision is fair. There will be public servants who think they are left out and there will be others who feel their services are recognised. The problem is that everybody believes their profession is the most important.

The debate on the allowances was longer and more intense, except on the allowances of members. This is because the list of professions deserving allowances or increased allowances, members found, were longer. Some have even lobbied with members representing their constituencies to include them or increase. One opposition member had a list of 20 professions that felt they deserved allowances too.

The eyesore was the generous allowance proposed to teachers and selected health professionals.

We can expect more intense and meaningful discussions today.

Every government would want to revise salary. The problem is it comes with a huge cost. At the end of the day, how deep the government’s pocket is determines how much raise or allowance they can afford. The government’s proposal of Nu 4.530 billion had already exceeded the financial implication the Fourth Pay commission worked out.

There are limited source of income to fund the raise. The government announced bold taxation reforms. This will take time as lobby and interest groups will influence decisions. Even if it happens, it will not be soon.

The sure source is the commissioning of Mangdechhu hydro project. But there are uncertainties here too. That the project could add about Nu 3 billion annually to the government exchequer will also be tested.  There is a growing domestic consumption to the extent we import electricity during lean months, the hydrology is surprising us and then there are unexpected delays.

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