Frequent use of chopper by Ministers, Prime Minister, questioned

Govt outlines its use in medical emergencies and servicing remote areas

While acknowledging the helicopter services has helped people the Panbang MP, Dorji Wangdi, quesioned its frequent use by cabinet ministers in the name of emergency visits by paying huge sums of money.

Naming cabinet ministers who used the chopper to visit places across the country, Dorji Wangdi said one trip made by the Prime Minister on October 6 this year cost the government Nu 866,000.

Similarly he said that the ministers availed helicopter services to travel to Paro for the National Day celebration that cost government about Nu 1.5 million.

Another minster had visit places affected by monsoon this year that cost the government Nu 697,000.

“The cost of a single trip made by a minster is equivalent to gewog Development fund of 10 to 15 gewogs,” MP Dorji Wangdi said.

He asked the MoIC minister if there is no regulation or limit set for a minister availing helicopter services.

Foreign Affairs minister Damcho Dorji said  the Prime Minster and the cabinet ministers use the helicopter when necessary.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the Prime Minister uses the service to save time when he gets foreign diplomats in the capital and when visiting places across the country is necessary.

The minister also said the prime reason for procuring helicopter was to operate during the times of disaster like monsoon floods. “Minister does not have time and moreover it is risky to travel  in the helicopter also,”  Damcho Dorji said.

On the huge payment made by government for using the service the minister said the revenue earned by the Bhutan helicopter Services Cooperation is taxed and 50 % of the revenue returns to the government.

Meanwhile the representative from Khaemed –Lunana, Pema Drukpa, said that so far the helicopter services had been helpful in terms of carrying emergency patients and also transferring goods and generating employment.

He also said that the government has been generous in giving 50% discount to people having to travel to places without roads The MP asked if there are any possibilities for similar discounts to transport materials like CGI sheets.

The Information and communication minister, D N Dhungyel, said that ever since the services was started on November 2015 people from all walks of lives have benefitted  during emergencies.

So far about 120 critical patients were airlifted from various places which costs the government  Nu 200,000  a patient a hour.

Seven  gewogs – Geling  in Chukhu, Laya and Lunana in Gasa, Sakteng in Trashigang, Soe, Lingzhi and Naro in Thimphu – are not connected by road.

Lyonpo said these people who avail helicopter services are provided services at a subsidized rate. “From the actual fare of Nu 131,000 per head, people pay about Nu 65,500 only,” Lyonpo said.

On shipping of necessary apparatus via helicopter, Lyonpo said that so far government did not receive such proposal from the people.  “The government will look into it and see if people from far flung areas can be provided with helicopter services at a very subsidized rate in transporting necessary things,” he said.

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