Civil servants at the lower rung may get more than what the fourth Pay Commission has recommended.

At the 5th Meet the Press on April 26, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the proposed percentage of raise in general was acceptable. The government, he said, could make only limited changes to the report.

“May be, we can play a little bit with the report so that employees at the lower level get a little bit more than what has been recommended,” Lyonchhen said.

He said the changes will be within the total pay and allowance expenditure recommended by the Pay Commission, which is Nu 18.285 billion (B).

To maintain proportionate pay progression based on job responsibility, qualification and skills, the pay commission recommended a revision between 14 and 29 percent for public servants with higher revision at the lowest position.

Despite the criticism on the Pay Commission proposing high increments for top-rung bureaucrats and politicians, the prime minister did not provide any hint of reducing some of the proposed figures. He said he the government was of the view that senior executives should be paid well.

“If the public feels that we are paying too much for our senior executives, I can slash it and give it people at the lower positions. But remember that one fine day you have to go through that gate. Let’s respect the chair you don’t hold now but will hold it in future.”

Asked if he felt that the Pay Commission’s recommendations were good enough to narrow the gap, Dr Lotay Tshering said, “It all depends on how you look at the report. If you look at the report through a different lens, it has narrowed the gap to a very significant amount.”

The prime minister justified saying that the report has proposed benefits such as provident fund, pension and house rent allowances for general service personnel (GSP), elementary service personnel (ESP) and employees at the O level, which did not exist before. He said people only looked at the highest level.

“The whole story gets distorted when people say that those at the low level get a house rent allowance of only Nu 1,700 while those at the highest level get Nu 61,000. 

But what people forget to realise is that there are up to 6,000 people in the category of employees that will get Nu 1,700. It is only the prime minister who gets Nu 61,000,” Dr Lotay Tshering said.

There was no expenditure on the Prime Minister’s house rent allowance since he lives at the minister’s enclave, he added.

The level of increase at the lowest level was up to 75 percent, which he said was not appreciated by the people. He said, “I am not trying to support or criticise the pay commission report. That’s my personal observation.”

As per the pay commission report, employees at the ESP and GSP levels would get an overall raise of 77 and 51 percent respectively.

Lyonchhen said the government wants to be inclusive. However, he added that the government would set a wrong precedent by altering the whole report completely.

“Then the Pay Commission report would become a joke.” He asked the media to criticise the government if it plays excessively with the report and support it for respecting the recommendations.

The wow factor, he said, had come in the form of performance-based incentives (PBI). It was the government’s suggestion to the Pay Commission to introduce PBI, saying that the incentive would help retain people with rare skills and capacity.

The Pay Commission has recommended for an additional allocation of 10 percent of annual pay to be earmarked, of which 5 percent will be for agency level performance and 5 percent for individual level performance as PBI.

The mileage per kilometre, he said was reduced from Nu 15 to Nu 10 on a good basis. “Five officials will travel in a car, but all of them will claim mileage.”

Lyonchhen said people should not look at pay revision as the means to narrow the gap. The government, he said, would come up with policies on issues such as mines and minerals and taxation to narrow the gap.

“Narrowing the gap is not about taking the money from the rich and giving it to the poor. If there is one reason in 2023 because of which the DNT government gets kicked out, it would be our taxation policy,” Dr Lotay Tshering said.

However, he added that the government would have done good job for the country by strictly revising the taxation policy. He said taxpayers would have to pay a few thousands more under the revised taxation policy.

The government, he said, was ready to lose the next election by doing what it thinks will be good for the country.

He said he has been attacked both in the mainstream media and social media on the pay commission report. “However, we must understand that it’s just the pay commission report.”

He said that the Pay Commission was a constitutional body the government could not influence.

MB Subba