Prados and Principles
Flashback pre-2013: The Opposition makes a hue and cry over expensive Prados procured by the erstwhile ruling government, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa.
The two-member opposition of People’s Democratic Party, which goes on to win a landslide victory in the second general elections, brands itself as a party that will live within means.
The opposition’s proposed austerity measures garners mileage and support and at the climax of the whole debate, the Opposition Leader hands over his Prado saying his “conscience” won’t allow it.
Fast forward to 2016: We have the ruling government that once opposed the “Prado-pocketing” doing a volte-face. Recently, the Members of Parliament were mum when questioned about the Prados the government was procuring for them this time round.
It is a different story that later, the Prime Minister announced that the cabinet ministers would not be keeping the Prados but what then was the rationale behind procuring the Prados in the first place?
The government has tried to give us an explanation: that the economy is doing much better than in the past. But that does not seem a good enough reason.
Bhutan might have improved in terms of economic growth, but what we are talking here is principles. In a country, where the poorest segments of society barely have enough to eat and spare, does an elite and privileged minority have the right to depend on luxury vehicles, which they once spurred?
An average civil servant would take years to pay off a loan on a Prado. MPs are supposed to be serving the people who voted for them, and they owe the nation their loyalty and responsibility. They are already drawing substantial salaries and benefits. They should not be treating the government coffer like a milking cow.
The rich-poor disparity in the country is also widening and unbridled human greed is something we should muzzle.
Bhutan needs servant-leadership as His Majesty has always extolled the virtue. We need leaders who can serve. That is the best way to lead. Simple, humble lives free of excessive superficiality are examples that hold original lessons.
Our government needs to live within means. Bhutan is a donor dependent country, still. True leaders will recognize this truth and strive to simplify their lives. They will make sure they walk the talk. They won’t be power or wealth hungry.
And this can begin with a step like saying “No”. No to Prados (over which one does not have rightful ownership). No to power abuse. No to accumulating and hoarding. No to hypocrisy. No to show, frills and fancies.
At the end, governments will change. Methods, too. But principles will stand.
The government has an opportunity to set a precedent. Some might politicize it yet again. But remaining true to the spirit of servant-leadership, not to be labeled great, but because you owe the country that voted for you, and all those who trust in you is a necessary step every authentically good government will and should do. For now, stick to your principles.