FIS­CAL IN­CEN­TIVES: A DEMOC­RACY DE­BATE

Business Bhutan - - Editoria -

There is déjà vu in the air. The rul­ing govern­ment pulled the former to court in 2010 for not abid­ing by the Supreme Law of the land when it im­posed ve­hi­cle taxes with­out seek­ing the par­lia­ment’s ap­proval.

That time, mud­sling­ing and name call­ing en­sued; this time too, we see a re­peat. Only this time, a third po­lit­i­cal party, the Op­po­si­tion and the Na­tional Coun­cil have slammed the govern­ment on grounds of vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion when it ap­plied the Fis­cal In­cen­tives 2016 ret­ro­spec­tively, again with­out par­lia­ment’s ap­proval.

The Prime Min­is­ter de­fended the move bas­ing it on prece­dence and law: the govern­ment’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the first con­sti­tu­tional case’s ver­dict in 2011. He ar­gued that while only par­lia­ment can im­pose or re­view taxes, the govern­ment can grant fis­cal in­cen­tives.

Be­tween le­gal in­ter­pre­ta­tions, verbal scuf­fles, and mu­ti­way hurl­ing of in­sults, a de­tached ob­server can see that this is just the be­gin­ning for a na­tion that is com­ing of age in the demo­cratic realm.

It is no sur­prise that such po­lit­i­cal bick­er­ing starts not very long be­fore the elec­tions. Ei­ther the govern­ment of the day starts im­ple­ment­ing its agenda ag­gres­sively find­ing clever ways to ma­neu­ver vot­ers or its op­po­nents are on the look­out for chinks in the govern­ment’s ar­mor, so that they can also hedge in. Or it could be a case of both.

We must un­der­stand that all this is not go­ing to stop. It might stop for the time be­ing when the par­ties con­cerned reach a con­sen­sus or op­po­si­tion is clamped down. Right now, the voices may die. But a sign of a healthy democ­racy is in­ad­ver­tently de­bate and di­a­logues.

If the de­bates die, so will democ­racy. We must try to find so­lu­tions but it is al­ways good that a strong govern­ment or author­ity has crit­ics as strong. That is the way for­ward. That is how we grow.

It does seem chaotic some­times when we are swept away by a tsunami of de­bates on po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues, es­pe­cially be­cause we come from a so­ci­ety and reg­i­men that did not speak up to au­thor­i­ties. But our mon­archs had the hind­sight of un­der­stand­ing the pros and cons of in­tro­duc­ing democ­racy in the coun­try.

They knew the in­sti­tu­tion of democ­racy was pro­gres­sive and if han­dled wisely, could bring about sweep­ing re­forms and changes that could help the peo­ple.

There­fore, while state pow­ers must func­tion op­ti­mally; law, pol­icy and de­ci­sion mak­ers must sup­port, bal­ance and some­times nul­lify each other. It all points to a grow­ing democ­racy.

In the midst of the storm, the peo­ple, who are af­fected by the de­ci­sions of an elected few, must ex­er­cise their right to take part in the de­bate. We must be brave enough to speak out. After all, peo­ple make up the na­tion, and we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to­ward it.

To de­cide for the well­be­ing, se­cu­rity, and sovereignty of the coun­try, which has given us much. Be­cause si­lence can be a sin of omis­sion as ac­tion can be by com­mis­sion.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties, gov­ern­ments, and elected lead­ers will come and go. Laws might be in­ter­preted sub­jec­tively. But the legacy of a strong demo­cratic foun­da­tion must be es­tab­lished so that ev­ery ci­ti­zen will ex­er­cise fun­da­men­tal rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for per­sonal, so­ci­etal and na­tional growth.

Also, while it is good to en­gage in demo­cratic di­a­logue, it is al­ways good to think long-term, not short.

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