Preliminary report suggests reducing their numbers by 55 to 57

LG: The government will be able to save up to Nu 200M (million) annually in recurrent expenditure by axing 57 gewogs, according a report on reconfiguration of gewogs prepared by the department of local governance (DLG).

This is equal to the gewog development grant (GDG) budget for 100 gewogs at the rate of Nu 2M per constituency.

DLG’s director general, Dorji Norbu, said reconfiguration of gewogs would reduce expenditure and administrative burden on the government. “We have 205 gewogs, which is too many for a small country,” he said.

The department’s preliminary report has found that the number of gewogs can be reduced by 55 to 57. “We found that the government can save about Nu 185M to 200M annually in recurrent expenditure, including salaries for gups, mangmis and tshogpas,” he said.

The report was also earlier presented to the pay commission, the National Council (NC) and will be presented to the cabinet as well.

Officials from the DLG have visited 16 dzongkhags and found that, in some places, one gewog centre was enough to cater to the people of two.

The report comes at a time when the NC is mulling deliberations on the bifurcation of gewogs. “We wanted to bifurcate some gewogs, but the government is completely on the opposite direction,” said an NC member.

According to Dorji Norbu  the idea of gewog bifurcation has become obsolete, as amenities, such as roads and telecommunication, have brought communities together. “Reconfiguration of gewogs will strengthen local governance.”

The DG said the government would be able to provide better services if the gewogs are large. “Where is the guarantee that the government can provide better services in small gewogs?” he said.

The DLG conducted a case study in Darla gewog in Chukha dzongkhag, and found that the gewog is very large and yet service delivery efficient.  Reduction of gewogs could come in dzongkhags where two gewog centres are located in close proximity.  The gewogs will be reconfigured, depending on the location of the catchment area and its potential to grow as a centre.

However, the likelihood of gewogs being attached to towns can only be realised once the dzongkhag thromde boundaries are declared by the parliament. “We don’t know which parts of the gewogs will fall under the new thromdes until their boundaries are identified,” the DG said.

He said that, though the reconfiguration exercise would entail monetary burden on the government, it would benefit the country in the long run. “The cost would be less, as only a few gewog centres will have to be rebuilt,” he said, adding that extension offices however would not be shifted.

Meanwhile, it would be gups, mangmis and tshogpas, who will be at the losing end if the reconfiguration plan comes through. “Some might end of losing their job, but we have to do it for the larger interest of the nation,” he said.

Another NC member said that, though it was reasonable to merge some gewogs, reducing by about 57 would be a bit too much.   However, he added that there were also some villages too far from their gewog centres.

Legislative committee chairman of the National Assembly (NA), Lekey Dorji, said the purpose of whatever the government did must to be ease and improve the lives of its citizens.  He said that it would take a lot of time and effort to bring this proposal to fruition if at all, as alteration of areas and boundaries of gewog needed the consent of three-fourths of the total number of members of parliament.

He said that the parliament would take the electorates in all 47 constituencies into confidence before passing such a bill. “I’m sure that the DLG must have studied in detail, consulted public through direct or indirect means before proposing to reduce the number of gewogs,” Lekey Dorji said.

The DG said the DLG has consulted some members of local government while compiling the report.

The NC in 2012 had proposed for bifurcation of 11 gewogs based on size, population, and area.  However, the proposal was dropped when it reached the NA.

By MB Subba