The economic affairs ministry would consider issuing subsidised cylinders based on personal income tax and distribute only non-subsidised LPG to urban areas such as Thimphu, Paro, Punakha and other dzongkhags by studying the poverty level.

Economic affairs minister Loknath Sharma shared this in an email interview with Kuensel after the question hour at the National Assembly on June 14.

Emphasising the shortage of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi had asked the minister if the government was initiating talks with the government of India (GoI) to increase the monthly quota to solve the problem.

He said that the quota of 700MT of subsidised cylinders per month was increased from 500 MT during the first government’s term.

Dorji Wangdi said that following the decision by the second government, the supply of LPG cylinders were to be done by the specific fuel distributors. If Damchen Petroleum distributes fuel in a region then it should also distribute LPG cylinders. If both distributors were allowed to handle LPG cylinders whether they have fuel or not, the problem might not be this serious, he said. “There is a loophole in the policy.”

In response, lyonpo Loknath Sharma said lack of policy on the entitlement of subsidised and non-subsidised gas cylinders is one of the main reasons for the shortage.

Beginning 2017, subsidised LPG was distributed to rural areas and the shortages began. If there was an entitlement rule stating that only rural kitchens could avail subsidised LPG and the urban homes should switch to non-subsidised, there won’t be shortages in the first place.

Bhutan receives 49, 295 cylinders with its subsidised LPG quota of 700MT a month and 70,422 non-subsidised LPG with its monthly quota of 1,000MT.

According to Population and Housing Census (PHCB) 2017, Bhutan’s population had increased from 658,756 in 2008 to 734,374 in 2018. The number of households increased from 126,115 in 2008 to 163,001 in 2018 which required additional LPG connections.

The monthly subsidised LPG quotas can only meet 30 percent of the households, which means the quota can roughly suffice the urban households only. “Preference of subsidised LPG is not narrowing the gap. But everyone wants to join the have-nots,” he said.

The ministry had been requesting residents to switch to non-subsidised LPG. It has also written to the members of the National Assembly and National Council but has received no positive response.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said, an artificial shortage in the system because of hoarding two to three cylinders in every household caused acute shortages of subsidised LPG.

Moreover, he said that it has been a month since the ministry requested GoI to increase the quota. The ministry is also planning to set a uniform price for subsidised and non-subsidised LPG soon. “Besides the use of alternative energy such as solar, biogas and wind energy is encouraged.”

A total of 2,080 non-subsidised LPG connections were issued so far.

Phub Dem