Property owners in the Thimphu Thromde are angry. There is an acute shortage of water in the capital city. Basic services like enough drinking water, if not round the clock supply, is expected of any municipal authority.

In the past, landlords would bear with their angry tenants, ignore it or blame it on the thromde responsible for ensuring basic services like water for drinking, cooking and washing.  Many would  forget when the water starts trickling down.

Not anymore.

With the revision of property tax, property owners want the thromde to provide them with basic services. They respected the decisions of elected leaders and policy makers thinking that with increased tax revenue, the government would be able to invest to ensure services like drinking water.

The revenue department of the government is overwhelmed with the amount they have collected since January 2024. It was more than Nu 300 million more a month before the deadline. The final amount will be revealed soon.

The water shortage in Thimphu is a reality check. Some are questioning whether our policy makers put the cart before the horse. In other words, they wouldn’t complain if basic services are ensured before revising the tax.

That improved revenue for the government through taxes would result in improved services convinced many. To put into context, an owner of a 13-decimal land with a building on it paid nearly five times more in just a year after the government revised the tax. They would not complain if basic services like timely garbage collection, enough water, street lights and good roads were ensured.

To be fair on the thromde or the government, it has not even been a year since the taxes were revised. It should change. However, even if the revenue increases tenfold, the thromde, the thrompon and his council members will not see the revenue. The thromde is broke and depends on the government for funds. Those aware of the predicament say the thrompon and the thromde is a “potato between two rocks.” In other words, they are helpless. If revenue from revised taxes go to the thromde’s coffer, the thrompon and his team would be able to develop or ensure interrupted services like drinking water. When they have to depend on the government for funds, they can only provide empty promises.

A well-funded municipal body like the thromdes could live up to the expectations of taxpayers. If they have the authority and the resources, they would bear the brunt of angry residents and become accountable. In today’s context, they could blame “budget shortage”  or pass the blame on to the government and wash their hands off.

Issues surrounding the revised property taxes will come back to the Parliament when the first session of the parliament of the new government convenes. The debate, many expect, shouldn’t be on the rates, but on improving services after the revision. There is no point to burden the people if basic services like drinking water cannot be ensured.

It is a shame that a country blessed with natural resources cannot ensure basic needs like water. Every year when water becomes scarce,  authorities blame drying water sources. Thirsty residents are not fools. In the capital city, the Thimchhu and several streams flow by the valley. Many wish for policies, ideas and initiatives of taping the free-flowing snow or glacier-fed water to homes.

For those who felt the impact or the revised tax rates, the expectations after reliable water supply would be improved roads, streetlights, public places, playgrounds and many more that should be funded by taxpayers.