Politics: The government should take responsibility for “misinforming and misleading” the nation, opposition members said, at the Meet-the-Press yesterday.

Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said the government soon after assuming office, initiated austerity measures to reduce public expenditures during the fourth siting of the Cabinet on August 23, 2013.

Some of the measures implemented immediately for the cabinet ministers included surrendering of the WagonR vehicles and reduction of security personnel. The Cabinet also decided that foreign travels for ministers would be minimised and the government would not procure new duty vehicles.

However, he said the government in doing so was telling lies to the people.  “The government must take accountability for misinforming and misleading the nation,” he said.

In contrary to their promises, Ugyen Wangdi said the Prime Minister and the ministers hiked their salaries to Nu 180,000 and Nu 130,000 respectively. “They also procured new cars despite having comfortable and reliable duty vehicles,” he said.

According to the opposition party, the cabinet members were using additional duty vehicles besides the WagonRs.

The opposition members said that the ministers and the Prime Minister undertook “excessive foreign travels” during the last three years. “Most of the ministers have travelled more than the travel undertaken by the former ministers during their tenure,” Ugyen Wangdi said.

The opposition members said the beneficiaries of the austerity measures were the Cabinet members themselves and not the country as a whole.

“It is evident that the Prime Minister and ministers were the topmost beneficiaries of the austerity measures,” he said. “The measures were introduced only for civil servants,” he added.

Opposition members said public expenditure has increased despite the government’s promise to reduce them.

The establishment of the Rural Enterprise Development Corporation (REDCL) was an example of the government’s acts that led to unnecessary expenditures.

Leader of Opposition (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho said if the Business Opportunity and Information Centre (BOiC) was merged with the Bhutan Development Bank Ltd (BDBL) no additional cost would be incurred.

“Now there are two organisations doing the same job,” he said. He added that the opposition tried its best to avert the establishment of REDCL. “But the government did not listen to our suggestions,” he said.

MB Subba