The Cabinet will make substantial changes to the fourth Pay Commission’s report to align with its motto of narrowing the gap, foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji told Kuensel yesterday.

However, the foreign minister, who is also the government’s spokesperson, said that changes would be made within the Pay Commission’s recommendations and the scope of the budget.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said the Cabinet was the final authority on the pay commission report but added the government was mindful that changing the whole report could undermine the purpose of the Pay Commission.

“We should not be bringing something totally new but we will be definitely making some substantial changes,” he said.

The Cabinet, he said, welcomes the criticisms and suggestions from the public. “But people should know that this is the Pay Commission’s report.”

After the Cabinet released the report on April 9, public servants have taken to social media to criticise the recommendations, one of which includes raising the red scarf allowance from Nu 100 to Nu 10,000 a month. Most have said the recommendations have come in contradiction to the expectation of seeing the gap being narrowed.

“We understand that the percentage of increase for top-rung civil servants should be less, while the percentage of increase for lower-rung employees should be high. People are saying the red scarf allowance is too high,” he said.

Lyonpo said that the Cabinet is looking at the Pay Commission’s report as well as people’s suggestions and criticisms. The government, he said, was of the view that some changes needed to be made in the report to make things equitable by aligning with its motto of narrowing the gap.

“Some are suggesting that we increase the salary by Nu 8,000 to Nu 10,000 for all. But we don’t have the money to do that,” Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said, adding that the government was looking at how it can fulfil the needs and aspirations of the people within the budget.

On whether or not the suggestions of the Pay Commission report would narrow the gap, Lyonpo  Dr Tandi Dorji said that a careful look at the report would show that employees at the Elementary Support Personnel (ESP) and General Support Personnel (GSP) levels would get an overall raise of 77 and 51 percent respectively. He said people needed to look at the additional benefits, such as provident fund (PF) and pension.

“People are forgetting that there is a seven percent raise in the PF of every civil servants that is to be provided by the government. People will have more to take home when they retire,” he said.

The foreign minister said that the proposed increase was about 20 percent for top-rung officials and 71 percent for lower-rung employees.

However, critics say that the proposed percentage of hike for lower-rung civil servants are not significant given the small salary base. The increase in allowances for top bureaucrats and politicians are more than the proposed pay of ESP and GSP employees.

On the Pay Commission’s recommendations to decrease the mileage from Nu 16 a kilometer to Nu 10, Lyonpo said the idea was aimed at reducing the misuse of the mileage system and to discourage civil servants from using personal cars.

He said that even though more than one employee travelled in one car, all claimed mileage.  He said the government is of the view that the office should provide the car if more than three people are travelling.

“I think even of it is reduced to Nu 10, it should be able to meet the cost. Nevertheless the criticisms are valid, and we are looking at them,” he said.

Foreign Minister said he was not disappointed by the criticisms on social media on the pay commission’s recommendations. “In democracy, people have the right to express their view. We should be open and accept all the criticisms,” he said. “Obviously, whatever recommendations you come up with, not everybody will be happy.”

There have been criticisms that the allowances, including house rent allowances, are high for the top public servants and too little for low-income civil servants.

“People should understand that there is a rule that says about salary erosion. That means you have to increase the salary even for the top people to compensate for the inflation,” the foreign minister said.

However, he added that the people’s suggestions and comments on the perception of the top bureaucrats and politicians getting being too high were being looked at.

On whether the ministers and MPs may deny the proposed raise, the foreign minister said the recommendations are based on inflation.

MB Subba