Member of Parliament (MP) of Wamrong, Karma Tenzin, questioned the Ministry of Finance on the measures taken by the government to ease rupee shortage in the country, during the question- hour session of the National Assembly yesterday.
He said that Bhutanese shopkeepers are charged 6 percent to 8 percent extra if they cannot pay in Indian Rupee (INR) due to the shortage of INR in the country since 2012. He said that although the Ngultrum (Nu) and INR are pegged 1:1, but charging 6 percent to 8 percent extra on Nu means devaluating our own currency.
Finance Minister, Namgay Dorji, said foreign currencies are hard to come by in Bhutan. He said that during 2010 – 2012, the government had banned the import of furniture, alcohol and vehicles due to a severe rupee shortage.
“The reason for the rupee shortage problem in our country is because we import more than we export. We have to export more to earn rupee,” Lyonpo Namgay Dorji said.
He said exporting electricity to India does earn rupees, however, the import of fossil fuels from India costs as much or even more. Therefore, he said import substitution is a must to reduce rupee shortage problem in the country.
He said Bhutan paid INR 2bn in 2014 to import of meat from India. The rupee shortage problem still a challenge as Bhutan imports almost everything from India. However, Lyonpo added that the situation has improved compared to the previous year.
Lyonpo informed the House that interest has to be paid on the rupee borrowed. “INR 21.9 bn debt has been paid and remaining balance of INR 7bn debt will be clear by 2017 and 2018.”
He informed the House that import substitution, promotion of export and programs implemented through the Business Opportunity and Information Centre are some of the measures taken by the government to tackle the rupee shortage problem in the country. He said there must be a collective effort to solve the rupee shortage problem. Further adding that the imposition of taxes, such as tax on vehicles purchase, etc., will help to ease the rupee shortage problem.