As parliament opened yesterday, this session of parliament will remain a historic moment in Bhutan’s history. This Session of parliament will discuss the much talked—the Clean Wage Bill, Civil Service Reforms Bill, and Civil Liability Bill besides tax laws. Parliament is showered with enormous responsibility in discussing and deciding on these major laws as their impact on Bhutan’s transformation initiated under command of His Majesty in the interest of the nation and public service aspect.

The Civil Service Reforms Bill is a historic law envisioned by His Majesty to finally bring public service to the doors of the public and transform the nation to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. This bill will focus on merging departments, abolishing, and creating ministries and overall restructuring public agencies to bring a radical change in the public service system. This bill will also lead to the amendment of over forty laws which will be a history in the country. As His Majesty said that Bhutan is the junction of a major transformation, and this law will steer the nation towards a progressive society in the shortest possible time. His Majesty further said that our system must be responsible, accountable, and efficient.

The current government has been able to take the bold decision in embracing radical change and pushed for major transformation.  Therefore, the legislature must ensure that while merging and creating ministries and agencies, focusing on clusters and grouping, there must be done based on the visions of His Majesty and the expectations of the people due to this transformation.  The bill must also provide enough checks and balances so that the respective agencies are able to focus on their duty and not be pressured by any form of political interest when the new government comes into power. For example, the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway could not materialize because regulatory agencies could reject the proposal in the future interest of the nation.

The clean wage bill is another historic law for the nation. This bill is principled on the Singaporean system to create transparency in how much the public servants earn and to ensure that every public servant is compensated for their duties.   The Clean Wage may not be able to provide a radical change in remunerations with immediate effect, it must provide certainty to the public servants prevent them from the exodus movement of the rush to Australia seen currently. The Legislature must focus on the long-term benefits for public servants such as home ownership, and other retirement benefits.

Finally, National Council passed the Civil Liability Bill and now it will be tabled in the National Assembly. The National Assembly should carefully consider every clause in the damages. The compensation and remedial clauses contain numerous provisions where the local government like Thromde, agencies may land up paying huge sums of monetary compensation in case of any failure. For example, failing to display a sign could also attract huge damages if the public acts against such failure. On a positive note, this bill will also be one of the laws which will fix accountability to every agency including the private sector. This law is necessary for a country like Bhutan and comes at the right time when the nation is undergoing a historic transformation. This is the time, the nation must unite to realize the visions of His Majesty in unison.

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.