The govt.’s recent order comes with a price tag of Nu 3 million each

Perks: The State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited (STCBL) recently delivered a fresh consignment of four Toyota Land Cruiser (Prados) registered with the government.

Although corporation officials didn’t comment whether the vehicles were ministers’ pool vehicles, the Prados are the duty vehicles of ministers in agriculture, home and cultural affairs, works and human settlement, and the information and communications ministries, Kuensel learnt.

The general manager (GM), Toyota in Phuentsholing, Chador, said these automobiles were Prados of basic model (TX). “They’re government vehicles, that’s all I know,” the general manager said.

The price for these brand new sports utility vehicles would come close to Nu 3M (million) each, including the 25 percent green tax.  It takes STCBL about four and a half months to deliver the luxury cars after the orders are made.

If all taxes are included, the price of the TX model climbs to about Nu 5.5M.

Meanwhile, this is the sixth vehicle the government has bought until now for duty purposes of the members of the parliament (MP).  In 2014, two units of similar model Prados were procured for the National Assembly speaker and the National Council chairperson.

Procurement of pool vehicles for ministers had also been discussed in the last Parliament session.  The government had decided to not procure any pool vehicles until a proper policy came in place.

The prime minister is entitled to one Land Cruiser and the cabinet ministers to a Toyota Prado each as exclusive duty vehicles with drivers and maintenance costs.

However, the PM decided to use the old Toyota Prado for his duty, while cabinet ministers were to use one of the pool vehicles available with the respective ministries.  It was also announced that the government wouldn’t procure new vehicles until the economic situation improved.

Finance minister Namgay Dorji had later said replacement of pool vehicles would be allowed under external funding, and that replacement and procurement for time bound projects would be allowed, with the condition that pool vehicles would be surrendered to the finance ministry after project completion.

The finance minister couldn’t be contacted as he is out of station.

Meanwhile, as per the Parliamentary Entitlement Bill, 2014, MPs are entitled to a lump sum amount of Nu 1M for purchasing vehicles, and a full quota, which means they are exempted from customs duty, sales tax, and other government taxes.

Given such privileges, buying of luxury vehicles has also trended among MPs.  More than 10 of them have placed orders for luxury vehicles.

However, the STCB officials didn’t want to comment for business policy concerns.

By Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing