Thrompons and MPs receive annual increments 

LG: Even as the government is making efforts to empower local governments, grassroots leaders continue to face a discrepancy when it comes to salaries and other monetary entitlements.

The government revised the salaries of local leaders in July 2014 along with that of thrompons and MPs. However, local leaders have now realised that while thrompons and MPs receive annual increments, elected members of a gewog don’t.

Thrompons receive a monthly salary of Nu 45,785 and an annual increment of Nu 915, according to the salary revision notification issued by the finance ministry in 2014. Gups receive Nu 20,000, mangmis Nu 15,000, geydrungs Nu 13,000 and tshogpas Nu 7,000, but the finance ministry’s notification did not provide for annual increment for elected members of a gewog.

Local leaders who are aware of the issue feel they have been “treated unfairly” when it comes to salaries and other entitlements. Annual increments make a significant difference in retirement benefits.

A gup from Trashigang said irrespective of the positions levels among MPs, thrompons gewog leaders, all are elected within the same electoral laws. “We should get be getting annual increments like civil servants or any other elected members,” he said, requesting anonymity.

A former mangmi from Trashigang, Tshewang said he did not receive an increment during his five-year tenure. He said that he was taken aback when he came to know recently that MPs and thrompons get annual increments.

“I came to know recently that MPs and thrompons get salary increments annually. Local leaders in gewogs have been facing salary discrepancy,” he said.

A tshogpa from Tsirang said that although most gups and mangmis were satisfied with their salaries it is time that the salary of a tshogpa was raised. “Unlike in the past tshogpas go to office almost every day. We play more crucial roles than mangmis,” he said.

In the recent Meet the Press session, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the government does not have any plans to raise the salaries for civil servants for now.

Local leaders and corporate employees normally get a raise along with civil servants. “Hopefully in the future, once our economy starts growing, we can think,” Lyonchoen said.

Not only about the increment issue, local leaders also said they have been disappointed with the government for not addressing their concerns about the commencement of salaries.

An MP’s salary is calculated from the day the results are declared by the election commission, but a local leader’s salary is calculated only from the date they are administered the oath of affirmation. The decision to provide salaries from the date of oath taking came from the Department of Local Governance (DLG), which issued a notification in September last year to this effect.

The notification though contradicts various provisions of the Election Act 2008, which treats LG members as “duly elected” from the day results are declared. The notification also contradicts the local government members’ entitlement Act, which states that a member shall be entitled to salary, allowances, benefits and other emoluments from the day on which the member is declared elected.

A local leader from Tsirang said that grassroots leaders said there should be uniform application of laws. “The government says the local government is very important. But it’s actions don’t support the words,” he said.

The government claims its ideology of wangtse chhirpel places local governments at the centre of the development philosophy.

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the National Council (NC) – have clarified that members of Local Government (LG) are “declared elected” from the day the election results are declared, and not on the day they are administered oath.

According to the ECB, the National Council and some prominent lawmakers, LG members do not have to wait till the oath taking ceremony to be “declared elected”.

To draw a parallel with Parliament, the Constitution states the same for MPs. Article 10, Section 18 states: “The members of Parliament shall take an Oath or Affirmation of Office, as provided for in the Third Schedule of this Constitution, before assuming their responsibilities.”

Still, MPs are paid from the day of the declaration of the results, and this practice has been established over two parliamentary elections.

MB Subba