The tone of the summer session of Parliament is already set. The expectation is a good debate on the proposed tax reforms and the Pay Revision Bill. Most eyes and ears, however, are already on the pay raise.

Even before the session began, an informal debate was happening with the big question being, will a salary revision stop civil servants from resigning or leaving for Australia? How generous would the revision be? And what about those outside the civil service? 

Unfortunately, what is being said is not pleasant to hear.  As much as we wish it is just a shaytho (gossip), words doing the rounds are that many civil servants are waiting for the pay revision to leave. And if what is said is true, it is going to be a double-edged sword for the government. 

Some, it is said, are waiting for the revision so that when they resign, the increase on their basic salary would increase in their resignation benefits. Some are waiting to see if the revision would be good enough to change their plan. Both ways, it is going to be a loss to the government and the country.

There are rumours of a massive revision this time. Pay revision in the past had not crossed Nu 5,000 on average across the civil service. What is a good revision? With Australia the next preferred choice, some feel that a Nu 10,000 raise wouldn’t be able to stop people from leaving. Resigning to join the corporate sector is better as, at least, the skilled and experienced people will remain in the country.

Lest we forget, a pay revision is not planned to stop civil servants from resigning. Nor is it to make the lives of civil servants comfortable. It is to encourage and help build a government that can improve service delivery or serve the people. If this is not digestible, the revision is to help offset the rising cost of living or inflation. 

According to Bhutanese visiting Bhutan, Australia is a lot cheaper than Bhutan!

The general consensus is that since the Covid-19 pandemic, cost of living in Bhutan has become expensive. The Australian rush has not brought down the cost of housing, businesses small or big are seeing drop in sales and policy interventions like tax cuts have not helped bring down the cost of goods and services.  Marketing officers and sales people are wondering why businesses are not picking up. Some point to the declining population.

We will soon know what the Pay Commission has recommended and what the members of parliament recommend. But the reality will depend on how much is there in the government coffer. Given the present situation, the government, many say, is broke. 

Meanwhile, it is not only civil servants resigning if a pay revision can stop that. What about the thousands outside the civil service, especially the private sector? The civil service salary raise has an impact on other sectors. In the past, pay revision in the corporate and state-owned enterprises automatically followed the civil service pay revision. Will it be the same again? What about companies that cannot afford a matching raise? Will the government fund a raise or let them sign resignation letters?

As much as we expect a pay raise, there are many implications that need to be considered.