Should the recommendations of a gewog reconfiguration taskforce constituted under the department of local governance be implemented, Bhutan will see the number of gewogs reduce by 54.
The multi-sectoral taskforce was constituted in 2012 to study the possibility of trimming down the number of gewogs to a reasonable number. The objective was to reduce administrative and financial burden on the government without comprising on access to services.
DLG recently published the recommendations in its annual report 2016-17, which states: “Based on the consolidated findings, a list of 54 gewogs were found suitable for merging taken from the list compiled from 16 dzongkhags.”
It said considering that some dzongkhags have fewer gewogs, the reconfiguration would affect mostly the 16 dzongkhags other than Gasa, Haa, Trongsa and Bumthang.
The recommendations are either intra-gewog or inter-gewog. This means that mergers should between gewogs of the same dzongkhag. Similarly, the recommended mergers of chiwogs are between those within the same gewog only.
The DLG report does not name that gewogs and chiwogs that the taskforce has recommended for merger. There are 205 gewogs and 1,044 chiwogs in the country.
“As a consequence of this (reconfiguration) initiative, should it be implemented, the original boundaries of gewogs and dzongkhags may be subject to change and a certain number of the electorate will see their constituencies change,” the taskforce’s recommendations state.
Such a change must be endorsed by Parliament.
The initial plan was to complete the configuration exercise as soon as possible so that the new gewog boundaries would form the basis for formulation of the 11th Plan. However, the study coincided with the second parliamentary elections, delaying the work.
According to the report, the recommendations complement some of the concerns raised by people in different fora.
DLG states that the rapid development in communications and connectivity has helped communities overcome the distance factor, which hindered service delivery. “On the contrary, there is a budget implication for running these administrative units, which could be done away by merging with the adjacent ones,” it states.
Having a smaller number of administrative units would enable the government to recruit competent and well-paid officials at local government level, according to the report. This, DLG adds, will strengthen the local government machinery.
The government’s plan contradicts an earlier resolution of the National Council, which stated that some of the existing gewogs needed to be bifurcated so that new gewogs would be carved out.
The house of review in 2012 had resolved that the establishment of new gewogs would contribute in accelerating socioeconomic development and alleviate poverty.
However, the house of review dropped the issue after DLG officials during a presentation to members of the house informed that the government had plans to cut down the number of gewogs by 57. This was almost the same number the taskforce has recommended.
The Council then had proposed for bifurcation of 11 gewogs based on the size and population. The gewogs proposed for bifurcation included Lumang gewog in Trashigang and Lauri gewog in Samdrupjongkhar.
All 15 drungkhags to stay
The taskforce also conducted a preliminary study on the relevance and necessity of drungkhag administrations. Based on its recommendations, the government has decided to retain all the existing drungkhags, according to DLG.
Following the decision, vacant posts for drungpas have been filled up.
However, the DLG report also added: “While most of them are absolutely necessary and relevant, the government in future may like to consider whether to retain or abolish drungkhags, taking into consideration criteria like the proximity of the locations and levels of economic development, among others.”
In consultation with the government and the Royal Civil Service Commission, the DLG is also looking for ways to strengthen drungkhag administrations.
Among the 15 drungkhags located in various dzongkhags, the oldest is Lingzhi.
Today, besides serving as an extension of the dzongkhag administration machinery, a drungkhag located near international boundaries oversees the country’s security due to their strategic locations. “They are also equally important for maintaining cordial relationships with the local administrations across the border,” states the DLG.
It stated that drungkhags in the interior parts of the country are also important since they cover remote parts of the country, where the incidence of poverty is high. Drungkhag administrations, according to the DLG, can help gewogs accelerate development in the gewogs under its jurisdiction.