Bhutanese have not taken non-subsidised liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) despite a shortage of subsidised LPG across the country.
The country imported only 242.99MT non-subsidised LPG in 2018, worth Nu 6.05 million against the quota to import 1000MT a month from Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL). The last government introduced non-subsidised LPG scheme to supplement the existing LPG quota and to allow its distribution to the rural households.
Excluding non-subsidised LPG, Bhutan imported 8,557.69MT of LPG last year up from 7,302.6MT in 2015.
Officiating regional director of the trade department, Dhurba Giri, said that trade officials have requested and written to all institutions such as hospitals, dratsang, private colleges and schools to switch to non-subsidised LPG. “However, the responses are poor and the officials cannot force the consumers.”
He said that the switch to non- subsidised LPG would resolve hurdles that include waiting in queue for hours, having to produce gas cards and online registration (POL mCoupon). “Each household can keep one subsidised and a non subsidised LPG.”
To date, the three fuel depots, the sole distributor of non-subsidised LPG in Thimphu imported around 4,409 LPG cylinders, of which 235 remain in stock. Starting February 9, 2018 until today, a rough calculation shows that Thimphu imported 62.61MT of non-subsidised LPG.
As of June 9 last year, the department of trade recorded 2,105 new non-subsidised LPG connections while 475 subsidised LPG were surrendered in 44 outlets across the country.
The distributors said people are reluctant to buy non-subsidised gas because of the price difference. “The difference is only Nu 255 and mostly tour operators and those in emergencies buy the non-subsidised gas,” an official with Damchen Petroleum said.
Dhurba Giri said that non-subsidised gas is available across the country but people are still reluctant to switch because of the extra charges. “Subsidised LPG cylinders are mainly for rural kitchens as people in urban areas can afford the non-subsidised ones.”
Economic affairs minister Loknath Sharma in a telephone interview with Kuensel said, that the ministry would study the prices of subsidised and non-subsidised gas and work on a marginal cost. “The demand for LPG will be on rise yearly and the limited quota will not address the issue in a long run.”
He said that the long-term solution is to work on energy efficient appliances such as induction cooker and reduce the dependence on imported LPG.
Lyonpo said that he requested the petroleum and natural gas minister of the government of India during his recent visit to increase the quota of subsidised gas from 700MT to 1000MT a month.
With the introduction of non-subsidised LPG, there are three types of cylinders in circulation -subsidised/domestic, commercial, and non-subsidised/domestic LPG cylinder.
The existing monthly quota for domestic subsidised LPG is 700MT, while the monthly quota for commercial LPG is 500MT.