Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Judiciary

The need for a just society for it well being cannot be stressed enough. The Judiciary therefore stands as a very very important institutional mechanism of ensuring justice with all the empowerment and protection.

I am not in a position to comment on the criminal aspects of justice for I have fortunately not been exposed to it yet. I can't even begin to imagine how it would be because, my exposure to a civil suit has been hell, to  say the least. From my own experience, justice is important to ensure that a citizen enjoy the peace of mind, let them focus on their work, continue to be productive for the society etc.

The insensitivity and probable danger from the powers of the judiciary i choose to vent my frustrations here.

I am not a lawyer and the little that i understand of it is as a result of my recent exposure to it as a result of a civil suit. I may be wrong here, but I m pretty surprised how simple the law is our country, and any person with a decent education can sufficiently read up on the aspects of the judiciary in our country. My opinion is that the people appointed in positions to protect the law are making it complicated. I wish to write my perception about the judiciary as it stands today.

The Judiciary is structured as a minimum of three levels, the District Court, The High Court and the Supreme Court. Any case therefore has an opportunity of being reviewed at a minimum of two levels depending on the merits and need for the review. This is expected to serve as a check and balance mechanism whereby, even if the case was not properly judged in the lower courts the higher level courts would correct any mistakes. This system probably works in larger countries where the Judges sitting in these courts are independent of each other. Bhutan is a unique case that way. The administrative and financial power for all the courts remain with the Supreme Court and therefore have a dependency. The small society and the smaller legal fraternity in Bhutan make it difficult for the different hierarchy of courts to function independently. The husband is at one level of the court while the wife is at another, relatives, very good friends or at least people they know they don't want to offend from a long term career perspective.This makes the delivery of justice very difficult. An Dasho Neten Zangmo like person might be able to deliver justice under such situation, but the other lesser mortals with many short commings don't seem to be able to live up to our expectations.

I see laziness in how our Drangpons function, perhaps tired of the many cases they have to handle on a everyday basis. In a judiciary system where the petitions are just read out and very little deliberations happen in the court, the Drangpons seems to be ill prepared for the cases and often confused with the details of the cases. The common accusation of the verbose having advantage in our courts is perhaps for this reason. In whatever side the case may seem to go during the limited deliberation, the stenographers ( Dungyi) has his way in how the verdict in worded and in many cases decides the course of the case.

The low literacy in law of the common population and the very limited access to people who understand law often make a strong case very weak because of how the case is petitioned and appealed. Despite this ground reality, the Courts prefer to go by their infamous principle of ' ignorance of law is not an excuse'. For the lack of lawyer to defend or fight our cases and because of the limited resources a LDC country like ours has, it might be worthwhile for the judiciary system to introduce a system of getting legal advice before the actual case deliberation happen. This is for the sake of justice which the judiciary is expected to deliver. The judiciary cannot be institution just for following procedures and must take a bigger role in the given scenario of low law literacy and strive to deliver justice and not just choose to punish people for their ignorance of law. There will be no equity and justice as long as the richer and law literate people enjoy a better probability of winning a case than that of a poor and legally illiterate person.

A Corporation  as a legal entity has all the process requirements based on Acts and rules. However, an internal Audit is seen as a must as well as an external audit. The independence of the judiciary  is very important, but at the same time, a system of auditing the judgements ( internal as well as external) should be there too. This will not only ensure check against faulty judgements, but result in a continuous improvement process.

As the Judciary modernizes, there is a lot to appreciate about it compared to what it was, in having better systems and procedures and better qualified judges. However, the comparison shouldn't be with the past and instead should be with peers at the present. Law is in its simplest form defined as 'reason without passion".  The judgements passed often defy reason and logic altogether.

As all constitutional bodies rise to the challenges our nation faces today, much remains to be desired from the Judiciary. It time they realize they are Drangpons and not Dasho's, and they have been empowered ( with authority, kabney, patang and Prados) for the sake of delivering justice and not to harass people in their courts with the show of kabney and patangs, or feel on the top of the world in their modern prados and completely forget what they are expected to do.

This was a recent remark by Barack Obama, the president of United States“So all told, our aging transportation infrastructure costs American businesses and families about $130 billion a year. That’s a tax on our businesses; that’s a tax on our consumers. It is coming out of your pocket. It’s a drag on our overall economy.” Food for thought for us the Bhutanese and the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement in particular and perhaps the Ministry of Finance too. I did a quick search on google for 'cost of bad roads to the economy', and the results of the search was enormous amount of information on it. This consideration is very important to the Bhutanese because our transportation system is fully dependent on the road network. In the words of Barack Obama, the citizen are paying additional tax because of the sad state of our transportation system. Any good we buy in the market could be of lower costs due to lower transportation costs with a good road network, the cost of fuel for our cars could be lower, the wear and tear of the cars could be lower etc. Import of fuel is today one of the biggest reasons for the rupee crunch, and therefore a sizable saving in rupees will happen with better road networks. It is perhaps difficult to experience the sad state of our roads ( except for the one between Thimphu-Phunthsoling-Paro) in a Prado/land crusier or a Range Rover.  Electricity, good road connectivity and perhaps telephonic coverage are the essentials for a balanced development. 
 I hope the government and the concerned agencies give this a serious thought and pave a smoother road for all us towards GNH. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

My take on the rupee shortage!

The rupee crisis is for the simple reason that we import more from india than we export to them. The situation is exacerbated by our ambitious developmental goals which are probably not within our means. This is perhaps why the Governor of RMA has advised the government to reduce spending. The following are my suggestions;
i. The Govt. is borrowing in dollars for its developmental activities, saving the dollars and showing it as an increase in our foreign reserves. However, the downstream effect is that most of the materials required for the intended developmental activity is purchased in rupeee. So, we have a situation where we are happy to accept and save dollars but are unwilling to replenish the rupee cost associated with it. We have to therefore convert the dollars into equivalent rupees to the extent of the amount required in rupees for the developmental activity.
ii. Prioritize projects : Although excessive government spending is probably desirable to expand the economy in Bhutan Case because the Bhutanese inflation is directly linked to the Indian inflation and not our own spending. However, the excessive rupee dependency has adverse effect on our sovereignty. The global war today is played through economics and not guns. We have to therefore spend within our means which will mean prioritizing developmental activities although there may be many desirable ones in hand.
iii. Import substitution : From an economics point of view, it makes sense for Bhutan to import from India and China where the cost efficiencies are probably the highest given their global competitiveness. However, from a self sufficiency point of view, we could try to make substitute products within the country which can be bought in Ngultrums, but would probably come at a higher cost because of the lack of economies of scale. The actual cost of any product that we are buying in Bhutan is the cost we are paying as individuals and the 10% interest that the govt. is paying to make the rupee available.

iv. Increase exports : Hydro power and ferro silicon products are probably the chief exports of our country to India. We have to study the situation properly and start producing products or services which will earn rupees for us. Tax incentives and other short term incentives could be provided by the Govt. for such initiatives to help kick start the project and also to provide an artificial competitiveness to the product or service.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My take on DHIs establishment

Like most things, the magic is in the details. The issue centering DHI is no different. Let me explain. Ever heard of the Blue Ribbon Panel? This should clarify many questions relating to the existence of DHI. The Blue Ribbon Panel is composed of the prominent nationals such as the Governor, the Secretary, MoEA, Election Commissioner etc who come together to elect the Chairman of DHI. The Royal Charter Mandates that one of the Board Member be a representative of Ministry of Finance. The rest of the Board Members are nominated by the chairman and approved by the Shareholder ( MoF) in the Annual General Meeting, as per the Companies Act of Bhutan. The Board Appoints the CEO and the top Management and so on and so forth like any normal Limited Company in Bhutan operating under the Companies Act. The Chief Difference you will notice about DHI and the other Companies in Bhutan is in Having a Blue Ribbon Panel and an Executive Chairman. The Idea of Blue Ribbon Panel is in insulating any the State Owned Enterprises and National Resources from negative political influence. The intention is not of suspecting the present or any government of ill-intent to the nation but, a precautionary measure, incase such governments do come into power. Political parties have to function under many limitations such as the 5 year tenure, the need to comeback to power and please the voters.

Assume that the State owned enterprises were still under the direct control of MoF. What would be expected of them? Provided Dividends to help the Government pursue its developmental activities and purse social objectives such as rural electrification or rural telephony. A important aspect of the Royal Charter for DHI is to provide Revenues to the Government. Further, annually, the government gives objectives/targets to be achieved by the SoE's as per the governments plans. The Government therefore neither looses out on revenues or the activities to be carried out. The Government instead has the advantage of now needing to interface only with one organization to achieve its interests. This would probably mean fewer staff in MoF to get it all done which is inline with the Governments Policy of lean Civil Service.

Remember the days, when all the SoE's were directly under the MoF. There was a Division of sorts looking into the affairs of the SOE's. There were no mechanisms of target setting, performance measurement, expenditure controls etc. As a SOE's employee, i felt MoF's presence only when Board Directors were to be nominated or when a Salary raise was in question. After DHIs formation, because of the establishment of a institution focused on managing existing SOE's, Control and improvement measures were put in place, more thought was put into having efficient and driven board Directors.

Important Mandate of DHI is investment. The Prime Minister calls DHI the investment Arm of the Government. All of us have heard about the oil rich countries. The oil provides these countries with access to lots of finance for the near future. Recognizing that the access to money is not going to be forever, Soverign wealth and fund management companies are established to make investments which would ensure that the Country in question would have other resources. It is my belief that DHI has been established with similar intent of 'protecting and growing the nations wealth for future generations' . Such organizations will require adequate empowerment. The context of sovereign wealth management becomes more important for Bhutan, because the largest enterprises in Bhutan are all SoE's and private sector is at its infancy.

One look at the Royal Charter, and you will realize that immense wisdom and thinking has gone into the formation of DHI. The interests of ruling governments in SoE are well taken care of. The SoE's in question are subjects to higher requirements of efficiency and accountability. The Nations wealth is being safe guarded for future generations.

For a balanced democracy, the check and balance mechanisms must be in place. DHI in my view, is an institutions set up for such reasons and certainly not as parallel government or centers of power. The avenues to discuss and amicably move forward have been clearly laid out.

If I were the Finance Minister, I would definitely not see any reasons why DHI would 'disrupt the economy'. DHI might take wrong steps sometimes and so might the Government in its intent of using national wealth, but importantly the such of such things have been lowered by many times because of the check and balance mechanisms in place.

I conclude with the quotation from His Majestys Kasho for the LG Elections "In the interest of unity and harmony, I have always encouraged close consultation and cooperation between different branches and agencies of government; between institutions and the public; and among our people themselves. Bhutan is a small country so we must always seek ways to sit together, face to face in the spirit of brotherhood and with unity of purpose, to resolve all issues. We must take advantage of our strength as a small close-knit society."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Democracy as i understand it!

To me, choice is clearly indicative of a compromise. The pros and cons are there are its for us to see and given the circumstances we choose the one we believe most suitable, and sometimes its choosing the lesser evil. Democracy is a choice of governance, the lesser evil. It seems to be the choice of governance given its highest levels of success and fairness. Democracy reposes faith in us as individual beings in exercising the individual right to vote and responsibly elect representatives who inturn elect leaders. The powers concentrating as we climb higher in the pyramid of representation. It would be utter chaos, unimaginably high expenses if there was a need for voting by all everytime there is a need for a decision.
With institutional checks and balances in place, the executive, the legislative and the judiciary and other smaller check and balance institutions are expected to independently function to ensure that power is not abused or misused, and every one works towards the betterment of the country and its people. With such a system in place, one essential ingredient for a successful democracy is the creative friction. Difference of opinion is expected and should be fostered and must be dealt with respectfully.
Unfortunately, in the want of a giving an opportunity for the best to rise, the defined period of being in power brings with it the unwanted issue of vested interests and bias. This would not be the case of a assured unlimted tenure in an authoritarian government, however, such unlimited power can be a cause of huge distress in the wrong hands. The examples are of China where, implementation if relatively easier with the 'power of god' vested in them, while in India, because of the higher fairness and stronger voice of democracy, often, even essential and good decisions get delayed in implementation because of the many interests in play. All this being said, I guess the idea is of smaller sacrifices in the name of democracy over a autocratic government which someday might fall into the wrong hands and destroy all that's been built and carefully nurtured.
In my opinion, Democracy has a better chance of fairness and equality in the long run. The essential ingredient would be a good educated mass who recognize the responsibility to their own future. A successful democracy would be in place when the mass are able to vote for the best candidate instead of candidates who are related or are friends.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fairy Tale Marraige

Reading the happily ever after stories of charming prince and princess never once made me question whether such charms existed in real life. I took it for granted that they are just for books and movies. I wonder why. Was it lack of imagination, was it my practical nature automatically screening it off as a impossibility?  The little innocence and  idealism that I had as a child is nearing its end and as if it is to re-kindle the innocence and idealism, the Royal Marriage is all aspects a fairy tale charming love story. I was fortunate to have heard from His Majesty himself during an audience along with my office colleagues how under a beautiful starry night, by the side of camp fire, how this love story began 13 years ago. The innocent pledge of " if I am single and you are single at an age when we are both marriageable, we shall be be together " was made. Celebrations on October 13, 2011 fulfilled all those commitments.

His Majesty the King announced to the nation at the opening of the 7th session of parliament  that he would marry in October this year. “As King, it is time for me to marry. After much thought I have decided that the wedding shall be later this year,” His Majesty announced. This announcement with the shyness and humility of a son informing the family would have floored anyone. The traditional celebrations that ensued later and the whole nation coming together to celebrate the marriage of their most beloved son was nothing short of a fairy tale.  The kiss sealed it as an occasion than would mark it as a special moment for many to remember and tell their children stories about.

Special mention to the efforts put in by the Government and everyone else to make the occasion a success. The police force deserve a special mention for the peaceful cold nights and tiring days leading up to the occasion as well as during the celebrations.
Tashi Deleg to His Majesty and Her Majesty Ashi Jetsun Pema.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Group of people together assigned to a task will produce a rightful leader by a natural process. The hierarchy system in any organization is a man-made process taking into account to recognize experience as a valuable asset which should generally lead to higher productivity. This system is often abused and sometimes the experienced one does provide the necessary leadership.

Allowing a natural process  to select a leader would be a interesting sight, most likely chaotic. In some form, this is evident in the many game of thrones played in England in the past centuries and also in Bhutan with so many Debs and Desi.

There is no right way, but perhaps the optimal way is the man-made way with additional system checks in place for ensuring that the leaders provide leadership.