Reflective of the priorities of a developing country, engineers – electric, mechanical or civil is of great demand. The many roads and bridges, the towns and the mega projects we build every year demand a huge pool of engineers.
Much to the delight of those pursuing studies to become one, the government and its agencies with projects in hand absorbs a huge number every year. So it is not a worrying trend to see engineers leave in droves for greener pastures. 134 engineers, about five a month, had called it quits with the ministry.
The ministry is not in a dilemma, even if it is, we should welcome it. There is a huge demand for engineering services even outside the government. In fact, there is a shortage of Bhutanese engineers that is needed in the private sector that is carrying out all the government jobs. Unless paid attractive salaries, the private sector, that is expected to help solve a lot of government’s problem, unemployment being the main, the sector is left with no option to recruit the leftovers or expatriates.
A common complaint among the sector is the non-availability of skilled people in the job market. By pushing the trained and skilled government engineers in the market, the private sector could benefit. This will build the capacity of the sector and prepare them to take up bigger projects. Otherwise, it is a vicious circle. We can only expect a poor private sector to pay poorer wage or salaries.
As a developing country, we are still building roads, towns, bridges and other infrastructure. The service of engineers has become a need. Civil servants are not allowed to do part time jobs that conflict with their responsibilities. When they do, service delivery is hampered. We need consultancy firms in engineering whether in civil or electrical that cater to the growing demand. There are some that are thriving after they left their government jobs.
The works and human settlement ministry is already aware of the reasons and are recommending the civil service commission take measures to retain skilled engineers. They are what we call critical employees and should be appropriately recognised. One reason is not having a clear career growth. This should be addressed. If there is not enough posts, the seniority mentality that has grasped our decision makers is still strong even outside the civil service.
As per the rules, engineers may be civil servants, but the civil service rule should not restrict growth. If we can have medical doctors as dzongdags, why not engineers at executive posts. In fact, in a ministry like the works and human settlement, engineers would make better decisions in infrastructure building or urban planning.
Even for the government of the day with lot of promises to fulfil and planned activities to complete, having disgruntled group of skilled people is a burden. In the process, the victim will be our development process and therefore the people. We have 16 towns to be planned and developed. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes we commit and never learn from poor planning or implementation.