The ongoing LPG cylinder shortage has not abated with rumors that there would be a big price rise for subsidized cylinders from January 2018.
The Minister for Economic Affairs Lyonpo Lekey Dorji once again dismissed the rumors and said there would be no dramatic price changes from January.
While rumors have contributed to the shortage the minister said that the gas depots have also not been able to pick up Bhutan’s full monthly quota of 750 metric tons of subsidized LPG gas.
The minister said that as a solution in the longer term the Ministry of Economic Affairs, two months ago, had signed an MoU with India’s Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to get a supply of 1,000 metric tons a month of non-subsidized gas cylinders.
These cylinders would be more expensive by around Nu 200 per cylinder but unlike the subsidized cylinders it would not be rationed and people who can afford it can take it.
The minister said that currently the subsidized cylinders was enough to meet all demand, but the non subsidized cylinder is an option for those who want additional cylinders beyond the subsidy quota.
Currently a family is entitled to one subsidized cylinder per month though in reality many families have multiple cards with some even hoarding large numbers of cylinders and not using them. This hoarding in a large part has caused the current temporary shortage.
The minister said that the plan is to get in these non subsidized cylinders by February 2018 as an additional option.
The minister said that before that can be done, there needs to be some public education for the more well off to not hoard subsidized cylinders and to go for the non-subsidized ones.
In India, the subsidized cylinders are actually meant for families who are below the poverty line and are very poor and backward especially in its remote rural areas. Large numbers of Indians from the middle and upper middle class have been voluntarily giving up their subsidized cylinders in recent years so that the really poor and marginal people can benefit from them.
The minister said that while subsidized cylinders in Bhutan will continue at the current levels the more well off should consider voluntarily going for the non-subsidized cylinders so that the ones who really need them can get them.
Bhutan currently has only subsidized cylinders of 14.2 kg available for households while it has the bigger 19 kg cylinders for businesses.
The additional 14.2 kg non subsidized cylinder would be a welcome choice for the more well off, who do not want to wait in long lines or with their gas books,and thereby reduce the pressure on the subsidized LPG stock.