Public views were widely divided. Even so, at the meeting of the local government leaders at Phuentsholing on January 15, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay handed over 205 Bolero pickup trucks to the gewog leaders.
What does it mean?
What is done is done; what is given cannot be taken back. What is important is to see how this initiative will benefit the people in the far-off villages. The idea could have been to wean ourselves away from the habit of being freely fed. But, does this dispensation not encourage dependency all the more?
Reducing government expenditure is one of the priorities of the present government. As a small nation with little resources, we have always tried to be frugal. The nation wants to save millions of Ngultrums by going paperless. How does buying hundreds of Bolero trucks stand against this initiative? We are not even talking about fuel and maintenance cost of the vehicle. What about monthly salary of drivers? How much does it work out to?
Perhaps we are getting our priorities wrong. Investing in agriculture is critical. Doing so will solve a lot of problems facing the nation today. We could stop rural to urban migration and address the rising youth unemployment problem. Fallowing of arable land in rural pockets of the country should be the sign to tell government that providing power paraphernalia to local government is less important than actually empowering the people. Distributing free garments and food is not how we empower our people. These are, indeed, signs of misguided dispensation that we must do without.
What we really need today are basic amenities like roads, electricity and irrigation channels. Financial institutions should be able to look at the future of the country’s economy by not just fattening their pay cheques and bonuses, but by also investing in profitable sectors. From the Nu 85 billion loan stock lent out, only 2.5 percent has gone to agriculture, for example. We have more than 70 percent of our people in the agriculture.
Aware of public criticism, the Prime minister said this to the local leaders: “Even before the key is in your hand, there are people who are criticising. Your responsibility is to make sure there is no criticism and complaints.”
But how to do make sure that misuse of vehicles doesn’t happen? Even as we speak, misuse of government of government vehicles is a serious problem.
As clichéd as it is: waste not, want not.