Tshering Palden 

The most common asset owned by Bhutanese households is cellular ‘phone ac- cording to the Bhutan living standard survey (BLSS) 2012 with 93 percent of households surveyed owning the gadget.

It was only 39 percent five years ago when the 2007 BLSS was carried out, four years after cellular services were launched.

As of December 2012, the two mobile cellular operators, Bhutan Telecom’s B-Mobile and Tashi Info- Comm’s Tashi-Cell had a combined subscriber base of 560,890 as compared to 484,189 in 2011 according to the fourth edition of the annual info-comm and transport statistical bulletin released earlier this year.

The BLSS 2012, which was carried out from March to May last year by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) through 112 enumerators used a sample size of 8,968 households with a total of 39,825 persons representing 127,945 households with 581,257 persons.

The other most common assets owned by Bhutanese households were rice cookers, curry cookers, and water boilers with 60 percent having one each of the three electrical appliances.

In urban Bhutan, more than 90 percent of households had three electrical appliances against 55-75 percent of rural households.

The BLSS 2007, with a sample of 10,000 households, also showed similar results with 83-95 percent of the urban households owning rice and curry cookers and water boilers against 35-55 percent of rural households.

Although urban residents live a more convenient life using modern electrical appliances to perform household chores, villagers are wealthier in terms of land ownership. While 8 out of 10 households in rural Bhutan (82 percent) owned land, only about a third of the urban households (32 percent) were landowners ac- cording to the living standard survey.

Rural households also had higher ownership than urban ones when it came to radio, bukhari (woodfed heater) and power chains.

A main source of income for both rural and urban households was salaries or wages for at least 57 percent of all households.

Banks loans are the most common source of funds with at least 18 percent of households having availed a loan from a commercial bank. Another 11 percent had availed loans from the Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL) and five percent from friends and relatives. Only about two percent of the households surveyed had obtained loans from insurance and pension funds.

A little more than 50 per- cent of households have either a savings account or current account but 48 percent do not use banking services.

The urban and rural households differ significantly in the use of banking services: eight of 10 urban households (79 percent) have savings accounts against only 17 percent of the rural households. Forty-four percent of the respondents chose to keep their money at home in a safe place, against 46 percent who save them in the banks.

One thing that levels the villages and towns in Bhutan is the love of playing archery on imported bows. Almost an equal number of households possess foreign-made bows.

The BLSS 2012 was funded by the Asian development bank.