Thukten Zangpo  

Bhutan has witnessed a significant decline in vehicle imports, with figures from the finance ministry revealing a 40 percent decrease in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year.

In figures, the vehicle imports stood at Nu 505.43 million during this period, a substantial drop from previous year’s Nu 831.99 million, resulting in a decrease of Nu 326.56 million.

The vehicle import includes passenger cars, vehicles designed to transport ten or more people, good transportation vehicles, and electric cars.

Suppose, if this trend continues over the next three quarters, the nation can save Nu 1.31 billion within a year, Nu 2.61 billion over a two-year span.

It’s worth noting that vehicle imports from India are transacted in Indian rupees, whereas imports from other countries require payment in USD.

Looking at the figures, the import of vehicles from India experienced about a 66 percent decline, Nu 201.26 million against Nu 585.04 million in the same period. Conversely, the imports of vehicles from other countries surged by about 23 percent in the same period, reaching Nu 304.17 million from Nu 246.95 million.

While Bhutan’s foreign currency reserve saw a slight increase to USD 532.23 million in June, up from USD 507.74 million in May this year, the reserves still fall below the threshold required to cover one year’s essential imports during normal periods, set at USD 603 million.

However, the foreign currency reserve remains above the USD 464 million mark for critical periods.

To ensure a minimum foreign currency reserve, the finance ministry recently extended the moratorium on vehicle imports for an additional six months, effective from August 18 this year to February 17 next year, following an initial announcement made on August 18 last year.

Utility vehicles, heavy earthmoving machinery, and agricultural machinery will continue to be exempted from the moratorium. Simultaneously, the import of utility vehicles costing less than Nu 1.5 million or the equivalent of USD 20,000 (whichever is less), along with vehicles for tourism promotion, will be permitted.

Furthermore, public transportation services such as taxis and buses, whether fossil fuel-based or electric, will remain unaffected by the moratorium.