Can we be witnessing the reduction of the Office of the Prime Minister to a product testing facility?

The Office of the Prime Minister is the most important office as the highest elected leadership position in any country. It represents the aspirations of the people and symbolizes the power given by the people to realize those aspirations. The country looks to this office for exemplary conduct during other times and for confidence in times of uncertainty. An individual who rises to this position beginning from the grassroots, in a sense represents the best of what a citizen aspires to be. Therefore, any individual who occupies this office owes it to the country and to its people the sacred duty to uphold the highest of standards, moral and ethical in its conduct. It could greatly either strengthen or weaken trust; the fundamental basis of relationship between a government and its citizenry.

The Office of the Prime Minister has come under scrutiny even during the first government concerning appointments of four political party workers. This was extensively discussed both in parliament and in society because it needed more reflection. As pioneers, setting the right precedence is critical because this will shape our new democratic culture. This Government did not make such appointments. More questions are expected to arise as we inch forward into the future, shaping the roles of institutions and in this case, the Office of the Prime Minister and its responsibilities in not only leading the country with confidence but setting the highest possible standards. A concern that needs deeper reflection and contemplation has arisen once again in my opinion.

All Government offices including the Office of the Prime Minister need to follow the procurement rules issued by the Finance Ministry. In case of gifts to the Government, the gift rules apply. This is important to understand because the Office of the Prime Minister has been seen to be promoting Tesla motors electric car with the Prime Minister driving it for months now, and more recently Nissan LEAF electric car, after the Government’s decision to change decades old policy of keeping out used cars and importing used Nissan LEAF cars. The Tesla motor electric car in question now bears a government registration (I imagine the Nissan LEAF with the Prime Minister does too), several statements have indicated that it is for testing purposes.

Many views have emerged from different quarters of Bhutanese society indicating that it has not escaped public notice and it is encouraging to note that people do observe; lack of apathy is a welcome sign.

The exercise of constructing a vision of electrically powered transportation is a good thing and certainly not new in Bhutan. The Government’s decision to assemble electric cars in the country for example was a wonderful thought. However, testing a product for a business raises questions of ethics and the appropriateness of such an act. I am reminded of such an incident from my university days in Thailand. The Prime Minister at the time appeared on a private cooking show on television one evening. Next he had to resign because it reflected poorly on the Office. He was seen to be promoting a certain business which affected adversely the trust people placed on the office. One wonders what the next product could be that the Office of the Prime Minister of Bhutan may seen to be promoting albeit all the good intent; the means (process) is as important as the end.

I share my opinion in the hope that more serious thoughts could be given to a seemingly insignificant but consequential act by such an august office. Differing views need to be heard, different angles need to be seen and more importantly because the Office of the Prime Minister represents our Government, the people of Bhutan must speak up to set the standards of what is acceptable and what is not. We often talk about code of conducts of civil servants; we talk of code of conduct for various other public servants. Is there a need to consider a code of conduct for the Government? The Executive (Lhengye Zhungtshog) needs to align its law with the Constitution. Will it also not be timely to define the role and responsibilities of the Office of the Prime Minister?
[Photographs from social media contributions]




About Sangay Khandu

Elected to Parliament of Bhutan twice. Previously worked with the Central Bank, the largest SoE (power utility) and international organization.
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5 Responses to Can we be witnessing the reduction of the Office of the Prime Minister to a product testing facility?

  1. Dorji says:

    Lately our PM has shown the worst governance. The confidence level of people is at the rock bottom. The country is in chaos and PM is only concerned about how to market electrical cas.

    • Ugyen says:

      Quick end results seeking people are shallow n self centered. Our HPM don’t be driven by them. We need long term strategies as you are doing. Plizz keep it up.

  2. Ugyen says:

    Having studied amongst the best in the subject viz. depletion of fossil fuels, lasting not more than 30 years. I applaude the PMs effort to steer the country in the right direction. I for one would like to buy a nissan leaf preferrably a used one. I know for sure a used japanese car outruns and outlasts trouble free any other car in the market. I bought a used toyota corrola from a pvt dealer in japan in 1995 and sold it in 2005 for nu.185000/- i would like to term those nissan leafs – second hand cars and not as “used cars”. HPM pls keep up the great work. We definately need a head start in electric cars usage.

  3. Yeshey says:

    Let him (PM) and his parts do what ever they wanted to do for five years, let them ruin the Bhutanese citizens and the country as a whole. They promised to work and do anything for the country and the people but now they are self centered and they do not look back to the ladder they have used to climb up. They have waited to come to power only to ruin the people and pocket it for themselves and who to blame now its our people only especially the southern Bhutanese who have closed their eyes and voted for PDP to ruin themselves more than any other part of citizens.
    This government is known to be most weak government supported by few elicit people who are selfish and they have misguided the general public to benefit themselves. we knew that this govt. is not in position to get resources for pay and DSA revisions but they used their power to increase their pay by double and triple and this now they are robbing from the public in the form of huge taxes and we the public should not be surprised that the day will come that this govt. will tax on making love between couples and they even tax on breathing in the fresh air. We are really getting fade up with this govt. and their cheatings to the public and I wonder how these people could face the public with lies all the time, I even have to sometimes think that they are not the human for they have no sense of feeling ashamed of for what they are doing to the public.
    We all know that from this year on there is huge cuts for the capital budgets for all the dzongkhags and already some officials are making ready to go for meditations.

  4. Kinley Wangchuk says:

    If not a tesla, it could have been any mother vehicle. That does not mean that an individual like the PM is promoting a brand or a business.

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