Reformation of the country’s administrative system, in the sense of improvement, is urgently necessary.
There was a time when villages were far apart from each other. There were no roads and other developments that could bring the country’s administrative structure to a more compact and efficient system. A village with less than 50 households, for example, could become a gewog.
Times have changed. With the kind of development that we have continued to witness over the years, we have much more to look ahead than hold on the past. And that will happen only with a radical change in the way we look at our system of governance and being able to bring ourselves to face the changing realities. That takes wisdom and courage. More importantly, a bigger national vision.
Roads have now reached the furthest village in the country but administrative burden, defined by almost unshakable bureaucracy has only deepened. Decentralisation of power has now taken a different and difficult turn. The time to change it is now.
Bringing the number of gewogs down is not about destabilising the structure of governance; it is about how efficiently we can provide services to the people. Today, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in our effort to restructure the governance system, particularly the local government, is the sentiment of the people, influenced by the prevailing social and cultural elements.
The local government elections are nearing and the government has said that “rationalisation” of the gewogs will not happen this year. That’s fine. We need more in-depth study and consultations. Covid-19 robbed us of this vital opportunity. But the plan and exercise must go on for the sake of a better administrative structure in the future.
Put it simply, the nation could save Nu 200 million annually by merging 57 gewogs. That is just one benefit of the restricting initiative. At the heart of the initiative lies the opportunity to make service delivery to the people more efficient. For example, the people of a remote village of Berdungma in Trashigang need not travel all the way to gewog office in Thrimshing when the services can be availed easily from Gomdar in Samdrupjongkhar, which is by much closer.
Bringing the number of gewogs down is about sensible resource allocation, too. That means more development budget to the gewogs. A cut from a basket can add more to another.
Good governance is one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness. The prevailing situation might have stalled the plan to merge the gewogs wherever it is necessary, but the exercise must continue. The upcoming LG elections must go on as usual but when the representatives complete their term in five years from now, we should be ready for a new beginning.
Sentiments and petty issues such as cultural differences and belief systems must not stand in the way because restructuring the governance structure is in the best interest of the nation.