As the local elections draw near, it remains a question how it will play out administratively and in terms of costs, especially for the dzongkhag and yenlag thromdes.

Keeping in mind the past debates, we tend to interpret and implement the provisions of the Constitution in absolute terms often invoking public sentiments on equity and justice. The last eight years of parliamentary democracy in Bhutan saw heavy debates in both the parliament houses and outside on the interpretation of the provisions in the Constitution.

Article 22 (2) of the Constitution says “Bhutan shall have Local Governments in each of the twenty Dzongkhags comprising the Dzongkhag Tshogdu, Gewog Tshogde and Thromde Tshogde.” But Article 22 (1) also says “Power and authority shall be decentralized and devolved to elected Local Governments…”, which obviously cannot take place all at once considering local capacities and resources especially for gewogs and thromdes (some do not even exist as of now).

It is now more or less decided that the country will have 20 dzongkhag thromdes and 20 yenlag thromdes. But will their implementation also take place simultaneously?

Two of the oldest thromdes in the country, Thimphu and Phuentsholing, took over five decades of constant government attention, effort and resources to reach the current level of capacity and professionalism. And they’re still facing problems today.

Considering the past trends of development in our context, the capacity and financial resources required for town development, will it be wise to implement all the 40 dzongkhag and yenlag thromdes, covering over 30,000 acres at the same time?

It may be better that their implementation take place in a phase-wise manner.

A typical case of Gasa thromde, which has only 23 eligible voters and a township yet to exist, by virtue of standardisation is likely to have a thrompon, an executive secretary (EX3), and 10 to 20 staff besides, technical and financial supports.

Ideally, the competent authority at the centre with the respective dzongkhag administrations should plan and develop a throm first and institute a thromde and then a thromde tshogde and handover the management, with a mandate to manage and develop the town further, to the elected officials.

Otherwise, a thromde tshogde without a thromde and a thromde without a throm may be asking too much from our elected officials.