With a substantial salary revision and 21 days of annual leave, on top of the various existing leaves approved by the National Assembly, our civil servants should be happy even if it is not enough to  cancel their visa and continue serving the “tsawa-sum.”

Leave is important. The Royal Civil Service Commission introduced an annual leave of 12 days promote periodic rejuvenation and work-life balance for civil servants. The National Assembly generously increased it to 21 days even with objection from the National Council.

Although not featured in the list of countries with most public holidays, Bhutan is among the top five countries in the world with most public holidays. Even before the introduction of the annual leave, a civil servant works for about eight months when weekends and public holidays are deducted. This year, there are 12 public holidays that fall on weekdays. Depending on the calendar and where one lives and works, public holidays could go up to 23 days in a year.

Not all civil servants would avail other leaves, but those who have to avail the six-month maternity leave and 21-day bereavement leave, put in lesser days.

Are our civil servants pampered? Yes, says those outside the civil service. It is crucial to recognise that what happens in the public sector has repercussions on the private sector, which successive governments have touted as the engine of economic growth. The private sector simply cannot match the benefits offered by the government. A three-month maternity leave is considered highly generous in the private sector, with some individuals resorting to unpaid leave or taking only a month or two off to tend to their newborns. Other important leaves, such as bereavement, medical, or paternity leave, are seldom heard of.

For instance, a young single mother was forced to resign from her job to care for her father, who required a pacemaker. She was denied medical leave and had no option but to quit.

The concern raised by the National Council focuses on service delivery. Whether true or not, many believe that civil servants hardly put in seven hours a day after deducting the hour-long lunch break. Consequently, complaints arise about the difficulty of meeting with officials. A significant amount of time is spent on never-ending meetings, visits to hospitals or banks, and excessively long breaks .

One hopes that the substantial salary revision, coupled with generous annual leave and other forms of leave, will invigorate civil servants and improve public service delivery.

We must also consider the wider implications for other sectors. State-owned enterprises are under pressure to enhance their revenue contribution to the government’s coffers without competing with the private sector or neglecting their social mandates. Imposing civil service rules on these enterprises hampers their growth potential. The civil service, already grappling with attrition, may need to offer attractive packages to retain its workforce. But what happens when the market becomes saturated? We will find ourselves facing the age-old challenge of encouraging people to seek employment outside the civil service. Unfortunately, by that time, it may be too late, and we will have already damaged the private and informal sectors.

In the end, it would be all of us paying the price. Automobile workshop owners, for instance,  have already adjusted the cost of spare parts and service charges. It is, they say, their salary revision!