Members of Parliament can swap their subsidised LPG cylinders with non-subsidised ones at the parking lot of the National Assembly building today and on June 24.

Economic affairs minister Loknath Sharma announced this yesterday during the deliberation on a motion to substitute the import of LPG with the use of electricity. Both the days, the parliament will have a joint sitting.

“Most MPs haven’t bought the non-subsidised cylinders. We have issued an advertisement about the availability of non-subsidised LPG,” he said, requesting all MPs to surrender their subsidised cylinders.

The prime minister, ministers, the opposition leader, National Council Chairperson, Chief Justice, Chairperson of Anti-Corruption Commission, Attorney General and the Auditor General together surrendered 21 subsidised cylinders in April. The move was aimed at creating awareness among people.

During the last three months, he said that about 7,000 non-subsidised cylinders have been distributed.

However, Drametse-Ngatshang MP Ugyen Wangdi said that the severity of the problem also depends on whether cylinders are available at convenient places. “They are sold only at few places. We don’t have outlets from where we can get cylinders at our convenience,” he said.

Ugyen Wangdi said there was not need for cylinders to be taken to the parking space of the National Assembly if they were made available in more places. He said inconvenience to consumers and fewer outlets were one of the reasons behind the lukewarm response from consumers for non-subsidised LPG.   

Members acknowledged the shortage of LPG has been a perennial problem since 2012.

Today, Bhutan imports 700MT of subsidised LPG and 1,000MT of non-subsidised LPG monthly. The increase in the demand of LPG has been linked to the increase in the number of households, Bardo Trong MP Gyembo Tshering, said.

The number of households increased from 126,115 in 2008 to 163,000 in 2018, according to a National Housing Census.


House adopts motion to substitute LPG import 

The House adopted the motion to “substitute the import of LPG” by a majority vote.

The adoption of the motion means that the government will have to adopt a policy to substitute the import of LPG by promoting the use of electric energy and electrical appliances such as oven and microwaves by waiving off existing 20 percent customs duty and 5 percent sales tax on spare parts of such appliances.

Also as per the adopted motion, the government should “improve and enhance availability of subsidised rural electricity.” This means the government should improve electricity supply system and increase the limit on electricity subsidy to rural households from existing 100 units.

The motion will however, not be implemented immediately. Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the changes in the tax and customs duty would be considered during the discussion on tax reforms. “Taxes can only come as a money Bill.”

Finance minister Namgay Tshering said that increasing electricity subsidy would be considered when the existing subsidy expires.

Moving the motion, the Bardo-Trong MP said that the problem of short supply was coupled with an inefficient distribution system.

He said that the import of LPG would keep increasing if alternatives were not found. “Increasing the import of fossil fuel is not good for our country for economic, social and environmental reasons.”

Gyembo Tshering stated that while Bhutan was proud of exporting surplus clean and renewable energy in the form of electricity, the country imported fossil fuel worth Nu 9 billion (B) annually.

The government, he said, must encourage the use of energy efficient home appliances as an alternative to reduce the dependence on the import of LPG. “We must tap this opportunity of LPG crises to switchover to use of clean hydro-electric energy for cooking, using energy efficient home appliances,” Gyembo Tshering said.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Penjor said that an immediate solution to the LPG shortage would be biogas and efficient woodstove and that the use of electrical appliances is a solution for long-term. “Only up to 100 units are free today and people must pay for electricity after that,” he said, adding that affordability needed to be considered.

However, Bji-Kaso MP Ugyen Tenzin said that biogas and wood stove were not reliable options either. He said that all would not rear cattle, while availability of wood for stoves was a problem.

He supported the motion, saying that the government needed to analyse all aspects of the issue. “Billions of money flows out of the country on import of fuel.”

Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji (PhD) said that 99 percent of the total households in the country are connected with electricity and that 94.9 percent of the them use  electricity for cooking.

He said that although the country earned Nu 10.5B annually from the export of electricity, only Nu 1.283B of the revenue remained after deducting the cost of import of electricity and fossil fuel, including LPG.

“We will benefit in terms of strengthening the economy and reducing the debt. In the long-term, the motion will help in strengthening the country’s security and sovereignty,” he said.

MB Subba