Bhutan moves a rank up in Corruption Perceptions Index
January 30, 2019
Bhutan has moved to the 25th place in the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2018, a notch up from the 26th place in the previous year.
The country has climbed up the CPI ladder despite the TI stating that the Asia Pacific region is stagnating in the fight against corruption. The Berlin-based non-governmental anti-corruption watchdog published the CPI 2018 on its website yesterday.
Bhutan scored 68 points in comparison with the global average of 43 points. More than two-thirds of the countries scored below 50.
The 2018 CPI states the report is based on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories, giving each a score from zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Bhutan shares the position with Barbados, an island country in the Caribbean.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has expressed its happiness over the improvement in the ranking. “We are happy that Bhutan continues to progress in the TI-CPI rank and score. The credit goes to His Majesty and Drugyal Zhipa, our anti-corruption champions and to all stakeholders for their concerted effort in preventing and fighting corruption and raising the standard of integrity,” ACC Chairperson Kinley Yangzom said.
A press release from TI states that corruption and the health of democracies are linked. The report states that the well-functioning democratic systems of New Zealand (2nd) and Australia (13th) contributed to their top scores.
It adds that low performing countries on the CPI share undemocratic commonalities that hinder any long-term progress in anti-corruption. These, the anti-corruption watchdog states, include weak democratic institutions, laws, regulations and enforcement mechanisms.
TI’s Regional Coordinator for South Asia, Ilham Mohammed, in an email interview told Kuensel said that although a score change of one place was not necessarily a statistically significant move, Bhutan ranks considerably higher than any of its neighboring South Asian countries.
“Underlying this strong performance is a clear, organised and centralised national integrity system with the Bhutanese anti-corruption agency (ACC) at its apex. Bhutan prioritised setting up a solid anti-corruption infrastructure early in its democratisation process,” the regional coordinator said.
However, Ilham Mohammed added there remains work to be done in terms of strengthening the ongoing democratisation and decentralisation processes. The regional coordinator called for awareness and action around less blatant and nuanced forms of corruption such as conflict of interest, nepotism and favoritism.
In the SAARC region, Bhutan occupies the top spot, followed by India at a distant 78th spot. Sri Lanka follows India (89), Pakistan (117), the Maldives (124), Nepal (124), Bangladesh (149) and Afghanistan (172).
Denmark is ranked highest with 88 points followed by New Zealand with 87 points. Somalia maintained its ranking at the bottom of the chart.
In the 12th Plan, the government aims to increase the overall score in CPI to 69 points out of 100. The ACC, the 12th Plan states, will strengthen good governance and contribute towards building a corruption free society.
This will be done through promotion of ethical leadership, instilling integrity at the individual level and strengthening systems and institutions through collaboration among all actors.
TI has made four major recommendations to make real progress against corruption and strengthen democracy, the first being the need to strengthen the institutions responsible for maintaining checks and balances over political power.
It has also called on countries to close the implementation gap between anti-corruption legislation, practice and enforcement. The government, TI states, should support civil society organisations which enhances political engagement and public oversight over government spending, particularly at the local level.
The TI also calls on countries to support a free and independent media, and ensure the safety of journalists and their ability to work without intimidation or harassment.
USD120.9M committed for UN Sustainable Development Programme Framework targets
January 30, 2019
Improving data accessibility and reliability, improving social services for the vulnerable groups, an inclusive governance, and climate change and disaster risk reduction are the four outcomes the United Nations Sustainable Development Programme Framework (UNSDPF) targets for Bhutan over the next five years.
The UN aims to mobilise and invest an estimated USD 120.9 million (M) on these areas, an increase from USD 80M for the year 2014-2018.
The framework is aligned with the government’s target on narrowing the gap. The UN will support Bhutan for a just, harmonious and sustainable Bhutan where no one is left behind.
Resident coordinator of UNDP, Gerald Daly, said the vulnerable group was at the heart of the sustainable development goals, national key result areas, and GNH.
“When countries are able to support equality of different people, we know that those countries are more stable in the long term.”
The 14 socioeconomically vulnerable groups identified are children in conflict with the law, elderly in need of support, female workers working at Drayangs, persons practicing risky sexual behavior, persons using drugs and alcohol, persons with disabilities, orphans, out of school children, people living with HIV, single parents and their children, people who beg, vulnerable urban dwellers, unemployed youth, and victims of domestic violence.
The UN’s focus on vulnerable group is also to help Bhutan prepare for its graduation to a middle-income country from least developed country (LDC) status.
Of the four targeted outcomes from the UNSDPF for Bhutan 2019-2023, enhanced access to and use of reliable and timely data for inclusive and evidence-based policy and decision-making is one of the main outcomes for UNSDPF Bhutan.
A National Statistics Bureau (NSB)official said that a robust information system was necessary for the bureau.
The outcome is allocated USD 5.26M of the total fund, for which NSB is identified as the chair of the implementing agencies. USD 34.82M is allocated for improvement of social services for the vulnerable groups while USD 71.02M is for climate change and disaster risk reduction and USD 9.78M for good governance.
The framework was launched yesterday in Thimphu.
The bhutanese Austerity is coming
Tenzing Lamsang 01/26/2019
MoF sends out cost cutting circulars to government agencies as part of a new austerity drive
However, its effectiveness is yet to be seen given that such past measures did not address the core causes of government flab and in-efficiency
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has sent out a circular to government ministries, Dzongkhags and all government agencies to come up with proposals on saving costs, as part of a new austerity drive.
The move is inspired by the ‘Financial Thrift’ report compiled by the officials of the MoF under the Interim Government.
The Finance Minister Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said, “We discussed the issue in the cabinet and the cabinet has directed the MoF to come up with guidelines.”
The ‘Financial Thrift’ report outlines several areas where cost can be cut and these are; hospitality and entertainment, TA/DA, computers and stationery, office buildings, ex-country trainings, central schools expenditure and maintenance, among other areas.
A senior government figure said, “Our expenditure should not be like a rich country and if you look at the expenses in areas like entertainment and hospitality and TA/DA then we are spending like a rich country.”
The Finance Minister said that the exercise would aim to save cost and prevent irrational use of government resources.
The minister said that the austerity measures would be guided by guidelines that the MoF is currently working on, along with other government agencies.
The guidelines will have two parts. The first will focus on hospitality and entertainment especially for ministers and senior government functionaries (see separate story on page 1).
However, the main cost cutting for all government ministries and agencies will come in the second part of the report.
This part of the report will look at cost cutting in areas like TA/DA, maintenance costs and other areas mentioned above.
Lyonpo said one aspect that is being looked at is the how government agencies rush to spend unspent money at the last minute, which compromises the quality of works.
This part of the report will also come up with standardized guidelines on internet packages, computers and stationery among other things.
Lyonpo said that currently some agencies have different internet packages from broadband to lease lines, and this results in costs. He said the situation was the same in computers and stationery items.
The minister said that uniform guidelines and standardized cost would save money.
One aspect of the thrift report was on the large number of government office constructions. Here, the current government has already taken action by freezing all government office construction within Thimphu, to both rationalize the space use and also see if some offices can move out of Thimphu.
Lyonpo, giving an example of cost saving measures, said that government offices are now being encouraged to go for e-procurement which is essentially floating procurement notifications online, instead of in the media.
The finance minister said that the guidelines would be framed based on a consultative basis and all ministries, dzongkhags and agencies would be consulted.
The target set for the guidelines is by the end of this fiscal year, which is June 2019, so that it can be implemented in earnest from the 2019-20 financial year.
The exercise will also look at ex-country trainings among the civil service.
When the minister was asked about any chilling impact on segments of the private sector by such an austerity move, the minister said that even the relevant private sector companies would be consulted when it came to the procurement process.
Will it really work?
This is not the first austerity measure of its kind but one in a long series of austerity measures since the start of elected governments in 2008.
The first major austerity move was recommended in the August 2008 First Pay Commission report where it came up with numerous recommendations to slash costs in TA/DA, medical treatment outside Bhutan, internet and telephone, electricity, rentals, vehicles, stationery, entertainment and hospitality, furniture, computers and streamlining procurement and construction.
The savings were supposed to save money and raise resources for the then recommended pay hike, which got divided into two hikes in 2009 and 2011.
The second major set of austerity measures were seen after the rupee crisis in 2011-12 when government expenditure was strongly curtailed and restrictions were even put on bank loans and general imports.
The third wave of austerity measures were announced after the 2013 elections when the PDP government decided to go in for additional cost cutting to bring down government expenditure and ensure no unnecessary works were carried out. One of the visible measures was not allowing new government offices and even the BCCI office to come up.
There have been smaller austerity moves in between, like the 2014 Pay Commission report that recommended cost cutting measures; including efforts with each annual budget to cut costs.
However, all of the above austerity measures have failed to control ballooning government expenditure, especially on the current expenditure side.
In the 2018-19 budget the current budget is a whopping Nu 29 bn which is almost three times the Nu 11.9 bn current expenditure budget in the 2008-09 annual budget 10 years ago.
The latest move by the current government, once implemented, will be fourth major austerity move and so far it ticks all similar boxes like the above ones
Another senior government figure, on the condition of anonymity said, “The austerity moves so far, including this new proposed one, is just dealing with the symptoms but they never address the root causes and issues.”
He said that austerity measures in Bhutan essentially aim at weeding out the small grass but ignore the giant and overgrown bushes. He said that cuts in small budget item heads make only a negligible impact and, in fact, can backfire if it is not done properly.
The senior official said that one core issue is that the civil service is bloated with a huge numbers and this will automatically increase current expenditure.
He said the other issue is that the procurement system which is under the MoF is not designed to either save costs or ensure efficiency and good quality works. He gave the example of having to procure air tickets at a much higher cost through a tender process even when much cheaper and better tickets are available in the market.
The official pointed out the irony that the same ministry (MoF) in charge of the procurement rules and system is coming out with such a report.
The official also pointed to the fact that instead of just focusing on small cuts, the more important thing is to do a thorough study on the cost effectiveness of the resources allocated and used, as well as a cost benefit analysis.
“The government is not a uniform agency but has several different types of organizations with different roles and functions and needs. Efforts should be made to see the actual outcomes as some agencies may actually require more resources,” he said. He pointed out that a standard decision to cut expenditure across the board could even harm agencies. He gave the example of the harm that can be caused by cutting the entertainment and hospitality budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which has to keep hosting important foreign dignitaries, both here and abroad.
The official said that the austerity reports are typical of the bureaucratic thinking within the MoF and the government system that ignores the larger picture.
The senior official said, “In fact there are a lot of important clues in His Majesty The King’s 111th National Day Address that addresses issues like a large civil and public service and how such large numbers can impact national development and progress through their complacency and indifference.”
He said the Royal Address also talks about ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in utilizing scarce resources.
“The address also talked about how public servants will fail if they don’t learn from and correct past mistakes, are unreceptive to feedback, have no accountability, are not responsive to new ideas and solutions and have poor communication and coordination,” said the official.
He said that the issue is not just about finances but also on if civil servants are working, their level of productivity and what happens to efficiency if one third of the people in the system are not working.
The official said that instead of just looking at small cuts, the government must look at cores issues like the size of the civil service and their relative efficiency, the cost efficiency and cost benefit analysis of resources allocated, procurement reforms, results against resources and manpower and also non financial areas of governance which ultimately affect not only the finances but also the quality of government services and projects.
Lunaps use chopper service to escape severe cold
Sangay Chezom, Paro
Jan 26, 2019
For Lunaps in Gasa, getting to and from their villages is now just a matter of 25 minutes. A journey that would have otherwise taken them seven days of arduous walk, is cut short with the introduction of helicopter hiring services to the gewog since 2016.
Unlike past winters, this time, four-year-old Leki Dem escaped the severe cold in her village, Tenchoe. About two months ago, she flew to Punakha in a helicopter along with her parents. Now, with the climatic conditions in her village improving, she is returning home.
“It’s very cold up there because of the snow. So for two months, we come to Punakha for vacation. Our village is very remote and it’s difficult for our children to walk for days. With the grace of His Majesty, we can now hire the helicopter service for transportation,” Pema Dorji, Leki’s father, said.
He added the last two months have been an eye-opening experience for his daughter, Leki. She could come again next year and visit more places too. All these, made possible with the helicopter service.
Similarly, the service has come to the rescue of women and elderly population of Lunana.
“Earlier, we would spend winters in Lunana freezing. Even if we wanted to come, we were not able to. We had to walk for days carrying our babies with us. But now, with the helicopter service, we can come any time. We were even able to come and attend the preaching of revered Rimpochoes,” Namgay Dem, from Tenchoe in Lunana, said.
“We stay in Punakha for three months and return in a helicopter. We take back basic necessities. The helicopter service has benefited the people of Lunana. Now, even elders can join us on our journey here. Earlier, they would be left alone in the villages, ”Pema Tshogpa, also from Tenchoe, said.
The Royal Bhutan Helicopter Service Limited (RBHSL) started the service for the people of Lunana in January 2016. So far, it has made more than 600 trips. Lunaps pay a subsidized rate of Nu 52,000 for one way travel. The chopper carries 350 kilograms including the weight of its passengers on every trip.
“They use the helicopter service especially for their trips to and from Punakha to sell cordyceps. The service is mostly availed during winters. We do four trips in a day. Each trip from Punakha takes around 50 minutes for a round trip.”Phurpa Tenzin, the Ground Crew of RBHSL, said.
For now, apart from unpredictable weather conditions, a proper landing pad in Zomlingthang in Punakha is the only challenge for the helicopter service company in providing the service.
Officials say the dust affects the engine blades of the chopper. The company, however, has plans to construct a proper landing pad in the 12th Five Year Plan.
How the Employment Responsibility System aims to create jobs
Sonam Yangdon 01/26/2019
One of the new approaches of the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) to address unemployment in the 12th FYP is their plan to institute an Employment Responsibility System (ERS).
As of yet, nine sectors have been identified by the government which will all come together and will have the responsibility to create jobs in their respective domain.
The labour ministry in collaboration with the identified stakeholders is still working on making the system making more coherent and efficient at the moment. However, the majority of conceptualization works has been laid out and is expected to be put up to the cabinet as soon as possible for consideration.
“Employment Responsibility System will constitute the labour market system, job portal, and the employment responsibility committee. The labour market system is intended to inform the job seekers about employment facilitation services provided by the ministry and the job portal will be used for the purpose of shortlisting and recruitment, selection and appointment of participants for all areas of engagement facilitated by the ministry,” said the labour minister, Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji.
Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji said that the Employment Responsibility Committee is new in the picture and will facilitate the creation of jobs in various sectors through consultation, collaboration, and coordination among the sectors involved. “The plan is still in the draft stage, and subjective to minor changes, but for now we will be proposing the Prime Minister to chair the high-level committee and I’ll be the vice-chair. We will also have senior bureaucratic members like the secretaries from the identified sectors.”
For now, some of the identified sectors are Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Work and Settlement, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Tourism Council of Bhutan, Royal Monetary Authority, Ministry of Information and Communication, Gross National Happiness Commission, Ministry of Finance, and the principal facilitator, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources.
A working committee will be formed in each of those sectors identified and a focal person from the Policy and Planning Division will be appointed. All the ground studies will be carried out by the working committee and come up with programs to help create employment opportunities.
The high-level committee comprising of the chairman, vice-chairman, and secretaries from various sectors will liaise with the Employment Responsibility Committee and engage in policy-related decision making.
The working committees in the identified sectors will have the responsibility to ensure that their plans and policies led to job creation in their relevant domains be it in private or corporate sectors.
“To give better clarity, let’s give some examples of corporations like Farm Machinery Centre Limited, Green Bhutan Corporation Limited, and Livestock Development Corporation Limited among many other corporations, which fall under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as the lead agency. So there are opportunities for the sectors to create more jobs in such areas of relevance, be it in corporate or the private sectors,” explained the labour minister.
“The identified sectors will now have to utilize the budget even more prudently from the total budget allocated in the 12th plan period to finance and facilitate more job opportunities. “It will, however, also depend on the different sectors to work and come up with their own design to create more jobs. The identified sectors will be reviewed and will have the responsibility meet their annual targets,” said the labour minister.
Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji also said that the current Employment Responsibility System that is still under discussion will be a central agency approach but will also gradually work to cater the service at the grassroots level.
Once the Employment Responsibility System is officially instituted, the labour ministry expects to facilitate more than 50,000 job creation in the 12th plan period. “All the nine sectors that have been identified are the priority sectors, but we will also try to devise more attractive schemes in the sectors like agriculture and construction sector which have more potential to absorb and create many job opportunities.
AMICI DEL BHUTAN - ITALY