Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, when not in the government, was known to be vocal in expressing his thoughts against the system, which in a few cases cost him dearly.
As the leader of the government, he is not as blunt as he used to be. But he knows how to make his feelings known, often through his humour and wit. At a meeting with employees of a corporation on Wednesday, he was candid about a lot of issues challenging the government.
The PM is not on a shopping spree, but he was offered to buy a lot of businesses. Private school owners have offered the government to take over their schools, those in the transport business have offered their trucks and the list is increasing. There are many unhappy groups. And they know how to press the government.
Through interest groups, associations, many are pressurising the government to look into their interests. Late Wednesday evening, the Automobile Sector Association of Bhutan hosted the PM. They didn’t offer their business to the PM, but they pressurised the PM to grant them government land so that they could escape the exorbitant rent the building owners are charging them.
The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan has made their feelings known on the government’s plan on regulating tourism. Hopefully, the government will not have to buy the mushrooming 3 star or the budget hotels.
There are concerns among businesses. Some are genuine. The economy is not doing very well. Regulations could curtail businesses and government policies could affect interests groups.
Having been a critical person against established systems or indecisiveness of governments, the PM would know where to draw the line. Not all government policies would make everyone happy. Some will be severely affected. But if it is for the general interest, some unpopular decisions have to be made.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering always claims of considering long-term interest over party or political interest. He need not buy private schools, hotels or trucks. The country will reap the benefits of the decisions if it is well thought out and for national interest. What we need is solutions to the problem.
Elected governments are susceptible to voters. Worse, to lobby groups. Although the numerous associations that approached or appealed the government didn’t threaten about consequences, the messages are clear.
An elected government will be tested on many grounds. If they make populist decisions, they will be remembered for favouring a few powerful groups. The ball is in the court of the government. How they handle such issues will be closely watched.
A good government will be remembered for what it does for the country and its people with long-term interest at heart.
It will be a shame if an elected government gives in to the demand of some interest groups. This is one of the many dilemmas Dr Lotay’s government is faced with today.