Narrowing the gaps

The government’s decision to form the pay commission at the earliest has come as good news for the civil servants.

With the last pay revision leaving many disgruntled, the government’s decision has revived the hope that may be this time the revision would be real for the civil servants and not be a veneer to revise the perks and privileges of the parliament members.

The last pay revision also created tension between the two houses of Parliament. The National Council refused to take the hike. The National Assembly remained adamant to its privilege on money bills and, when the revision came through, only the MPs were happy.

As work begins to constitute the pay commission, the government could draw some lessons from the past. A salary revision is long due and the government has promised to provide realistic salaries and allowances to civil servants.

But even as we welcome the news of a pay hike, we have to be mindful of the inflation this decision could trigger. Cost of good and services, house rents, and the large section of private sector that do not get an automatic raise are issues that must be factored in but are often ignored.

That we have to wait for a new government to get a salary raise and not because of other punishing factors of living standards leave a lot to be desired in governance. The civil service is an apolitical institution but their salaries and allowances are left open to be politicised. Salary revision for civil servants is now a permanent feature on party manifestos.

The formation of a pay commission is touted as one of the major decisions of the Cabinet since it assumed office two weeks ago. As necessary as it may be, some observe that the first thing the new government is doing is planning to spend even before we have a clear picture on how the resources for 12th Plan would be mobilised.

The argument that Nu 20 billion is already earmarked for salary revision is not enough to convince the people that we have enough resources in hand. It may also be too optimistic to bank on the commissioning of hydropower projects, given the geological surprises the projects encounter. But unlike other parties, the ruling party was the lone one to pledge recovering Nu10 billion through taxation measures. This move was appreciated by many and would be a closely followed policy.

The prime minister had said that the first thing the government would do when it takes office would be to bring together the country. It could be a challenge to understand the correlation of pay revision for civil servants with bringing the country together and healing the wounds inflicted by divisive politics.

With too many gaps to narrow, it is time the government prioritises its efforts.

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