PM in austerity mode as he rejects luxury duty vehicles, bungalow, pilots, security guards, and protocol
In what is a clear signal to the government machinery, the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay has rejected the Luxury Crown vehicle and Toyota Land Cruiser sent for his duty by the Cabinet Secretariat.
The Cabinet Secretary Dasho Penden Wangchuk said, “The Prime Minister has declined to accept the Toyota Crown and Land Cruiser sent to him, and is instead using his old Prado surrendered to the government earlier.”
The Prime Minister has also decided to not move into the luxurious Raven House in the Ministerial Enclave, and so he will be staying at his relatively simple house in Taba. The Raven House will continue to be a state guest house for state guests.
Lyonchhen has also declined to accept two pilot vehicles allocated to him by the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP). The Prime Minister is eligible to have one pilot vehicle in the front and another pilot at the back of the vehicle convoy.
According to a source, the Prime Minister had said that since there are no traffic jams in Thimphu, the Prime Minister could still reach his office in time without any pilot vehicles.
The Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay has also rejected the 36 police personnel that were allocated for his personal security as the Prime Minister. Some of the 36 people were highly trained in India for bodyguard duties. He has instead opted to retain two security personnel at his home and one personal security officer (PSO) with him which he already had earlier as the Opposition Leader. They would be changed on a rotation basis.
The source said that the PM told the RBP that Thimphu was safe enough for him, and that if there were any safety and security issues in Thimphu then the PM and the residents would have to work together to make it a safe for everyone.
He has also declined to accept the appointment of two RBP officers as his personal ADC’s.
In a unique step, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet members, after receiving the Dakyen and Dhar from His Majesty the King, went and received blessing from the His Holiness the Je Khenpo.
In a break from regular protocol associated with a new Prime Minister, he also did not allow any Chadhi and Chipdrel ceremony while attending his office for the first time after the Dakyen ceremony.
Otherwise, the new Prime Minister, as part of state protocol, gets a long Chipdrel procession and guard of honour upon taking office.
According to a source, the decision was taken to keep the whole occasion simple and also because it was not very far from the office of His Majesty the King and His Holiness the Je Khenpo.
These austerity moves by the Prime Minister is expected to send a strong message to the other ministerial colleagues, senior bureaucrats and the civil service, in general to rein in unnecessary spending, keep it simple and to avoid unnecessary pomp and ceremony.
Even after the Parliament was dissolved, the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay as the then Opposition Leader along with his colleague Damcho Dorji surrendered their Kabneys and Patangs.
Later on, though all DPT ministers took their duty Prado vehicles and office equipment, he was the sole one to return the Prado back to the government saying that it was not appropriate to take a vehicle when the country’s economy was suffering and, also because he was not consulted by the DPT government before they approached His Majesty the King for the Kidu.
This move, combined with him surrendering his Kabney, went down well with the public and eventually became a prominent election issue.
In addition to this, one of the PDP’s main campaign planks was on the poor state of the economy. The PDP president went to great lengths to highlight the state of the economy and how everybody needs to be careful and observe austerity measures.
Since the Prime Minister is the Head of the Cabinet and the Government, his move is also expected to set an example to all government organizations on the need to be austere and also focus on serving the people above senior officials.
The Prime Minister’s moves are also in keeping with PDP’s election promises of establishing a government, which is people centric, brings ministers closer to people, and does away with the autocratic style of functioning which was synonymous with the earlier government.
His refusal of the traditional Chipdrel ceremony is already being seen as a signal in many senior government quarters that the old governance style of heavy protocol and top down system will be replaced by a less formal and more business like system.
Tenzing Lamsang / Thimphu