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According to provisional statistics until September this year

In the first nine months this year, the country imported goods worth more than Nu 50.36B and exported goods worth more than Nu 27.68B.

This has resulted in a trade deficit of around Nu 22.6B. According to provisional trade statistics, the country’s trade balance between January and September could have hit Nu 32.5B in the red, had it not been for electricity export.

Trade with India alone accounts for Nu 16.5B of the overall trade deficit.

Trade deficit is an economic measure of balance of trade, where a country’s imports outdo its exports. Figures from the finance ministry show that trade deficit has been widening since 2012, showing marginal increase in export and jump in the export value.

In terms of energy trade, until September this year, the country has exported electricity worth Nu 9.7B. Figures also reveal electricity import of about Nu 152M and fuel import of Nu 6.5B in these nine months. Last year, the country imported fuel worth Nu 7.5B.

With increasing number of vehicles, there has been corresponding increase in fuel consumption. However, the monetary value of fuel import has slightly decreased over the years due to price fluctuations.

Vehicle import until September this year stood at almost Nu 4B, of which more than Nu 3B are from India. In 2016, the value of vehicle import was around Nu 7B.

Figures from Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) show that there were 82,522 vehicles as of September last year. Until November this year, the number of vehicles rose to 91,383.

Besides fuel and machinery, rice tops the import commodities, which is valued at Nu 1.2B as of September this year. In the whole of 2016, the country imported more than Nu 1.5B worth of rice.

Bhutan’s top ten-export commodities reflect silicon, dolomite, cardamom, potato, cement and clinker, among others.

The country’s trade balance is the major factor contributing towards the current account deficit while in the short term it could lead to rupee shortage.

A local economist said that there have been efforts from the government to promote export and substitute import. However, it seems that electricity export is the commodity that could correct the country’s trade balance in a major way. “Because other produce coming from CSIs and farms are insignificant,” he said.

In 2016, trade statistics show a deficit of Nu 32.10B against Nu 32.80B in 2015.  The slight improvement is attributed to increased earnings from electricity export.

Tshering Dorji

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