Sunday, 15 February 2009

Bhutan : Party coordinators out in the cold

14 February, 2009 - The Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) dzongkhag party coordinators are in a crisis.

With party offices in the dzongkhags running out of money, they are pondering whether to resign or hang on. Most of the dzongkhag coordinators have not paid their rent since March 2008 and some have not received any money from the head office in Thimphu, apart from the Nu 20,000 imprest money received in March last year.

The dzongkhag offices run on credit, while coordinators and office assistants survive without salary and zethue (miscellaneous allowance). Their telephones have been disconnected and some coordinators are on the verge of being chased away by landlords.

Dagana dzongkhag coordinator, Kinley Wangdi, said the money they raised through contributions and fees was insufficient for day-to-day party activities. He added that there were only a few people making contributions, that too in small amounts.

Tsirang’s dzongkhag coordinator, Dorji, said the DPT party may dissolve if they have to depend on contributions and membership fees. “For a country to have a vibrant democracy, the ruling party needs enough money. How long will the party depend on contributions, because people may not contribute all the time?”

“We ran out of money a long time back,” said Dorji, who now works from his home, after he couldn’t afford the house rent.

The Election Commission of Bhutan does not permit any fund raising for a party apart from memberships fee and contributions.

Most coordinators said they joined the party not in a hope of getting money but, without money, to meet even basic requirements, such as telephone and electricity bills, was difficult.

After the election, coordinators held executive committee meetings at the dzongkhag level, accompanied ministers and MPs during constituency visits and initiated party fund raising activities.

The dzongkhag co-coordinators were paid Nu 5,000 a month as miscellaneous allowance. Office assistants were employed regularly and got Nu 7,000, while gewog and constituency coordinators drew Nu 1,500 in a month.

DPT deputy secretary, Dorji Wangchuk, said that, although they could not release salary regularly, they had nonetheless sent lump sum amounts, based on the genuine need of the dzongkhag. He said that party workers must look for new members and contributors.

With only 100 new members after the March election and little contributions, it was difficult to sustain with limited source of funds, said Dorji Wangchuk. In the 2008-09 financial year, DPT raised over Nu 4 million, but their monthly expenditure exceeded Nu 800,000 a month. “There were over 12,000 members registered with DPT but, after the election, we have only 589.”

DPT today has an Nu 15 million overdraft (OD) with the Bank of Bhutan, of which Nu 180,000 is deducted as monthly interest. DPT’s head of administration and finance, Tshewang Rinzin, said that the OD saturated a month ago.

In July 2008, the two parties had proposed for a Nu 15-20 million state funding for political parties, but the proposal was rejected by ECB and the National Council stating that it was unconstitutional.

Today, DPT ministers and MPs contribute 10 percent of their salary to the party fund. There is, however, a ray of hope. ECB has recently increased the ceiling of member’s contribution from Nu 100,000 to Nu 500,000.

By Tenzin Namgyel

No comments: