The government’s proposal to increase the national wage rate would do more damage than good, according to the Opposition.

“It’ll have a serious implication on the economy and distort the economy,” the Opposition Party’s vice president Dorji Wangdi said.

This potential effect of the wage increase comes partly from the government’s confusion on the issue, he said.

There are two wage rates in the country, the national minimum wage rate, and the national work force wage rate.

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said that despite following their statements on this pledge since the elections until the recent deliberations at the Parliament, he said he is confused over which one the government is referring to.

“At the Parliament, Lyonchhen first said it was the national minimum wage rate, but at the same time he referred to increasing the minimum wage for the national work force too, so the government is totally confused of what it is talking about.”

National minimum wage rate applies to anyone working in the country irrespective of nationality. The national work force wage rate applies only to Bhutanese nationals.

He said that despite having the national minimum wage rate of Nu 125, what is applied to Bhutanese is Nu 215, which is the minimum wage for national work force.

“So if the government increases the minimum national wage rate to Nu 450 from Nu 125 then Bhutanese would not benefit but non-Bhutanese will,” he said, adding that it is going to have a huge repercussion on the economy.

The national minimum wage for the national work force, which is in five categories, varies between Nu 215 for unskilled workers and Nu 324 for master craftsman.

Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that raising Nu 125 wage rate to Nu 450 could weigh heavily on those who have to pay alimony and in lieu of prison term sentences.

The Opposition has been cooperating with the government on many of their programmes that benefit the country.

“People should not take our cooperation with the government as collusion because we object and will raise our concerns on every matter that would adversely affect the interests of the country and to propose alternatives,” the Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said.

At the recent Parliament session, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the fourth pay commission would come up with recommendations and that the national minimum wage could increase up to Nu 450 a day as the government had pledged.

The government would then make its decision based on its recommendations.

Prime minister said that the wage rate increase was long overdue considering huge inflation over the years.

Dorji Wangdi said that it is not the mandate of the pay commission to look into the wage increase.

“The pay commission according to the Constitution is only to recommend on the salary, perks and entitlements of the public servants,” he said.

Tshering Palden