Only 19% of Bhutanese households own a family car

One the major reasons that the National Assembly approved high vehicles taxes ranging from 100 percent for small cars to 180 percent for bigger cars was due to the allegedly high number of vehicle ownership and imports.

The Tax Bill of the government even went to the extent of putting a five percent fuel tax to reduce not only the import of fuel but also discourage the apparent high import of cars.

However, according to the comprehensive and detailed Bhutan Living Standard and Survey (BLSS) 2012 only 19.2 percent of Bhutanese households actually own a family car. This would mean that nationally around 81 percent of households are yet to own a family car or a first car.

Even the existing car ownership is heavily skewed in favor of urban areas like Thimphu and Phuentsholing where the percentage of family car ownership is 35.5 percent. However, in rural areas the figure is far lesser coming to only 10.9 percent of rural households having a family car.

Another interesting anomaly in the data is that of the five categories of economic status in Bhutan from the poorest First quintile to the richest Fifth quintile the maximum family cars are owned by the richest fifth quintile.

The Fifth quintile owns 45.6 percent of all family cars; the fourth quintile owns 26.3 percent of family cars while the third quintile owns around 16.2 percent of family cars. In comparison the poor second quintile owns 6 percent of vehicles and the poorest first quintile owns only 2 percent of all family vehicles.

Nationally other types of vehicles apart from family cars which could be anything from Trucks to power tillers is 5.2 percent, it is 3.6 percent for two wheelers and 5.6 percent for bicycles.

The BLSS 2012 was carried out between March 2012 and May 2012 just around the time when vehicle import bans and a credit freeze came into place. This would mean that the survey figures would even be relevant in today’s context as vehicle imports have not been allowed since then.

The BLSS survey used a sample of 8,968 households with a total of 39,825 persons and is considered as one of the most accurate and representative surveys of its kind.

Already voices, both inside and outside the Parliament, have started questioning the wisdom of high vehicle taxes based on the experience of urban areas like Thimphu and Phuentsholing when in reality vehicle ownership is actually very low outside these two major urban centers.

MPs in both the National Assembly and National Council in addition to ordinary people are now questioning the impact of such high taxes on rural prosperity as most farmers are yet to buy vehicles to use on the newly built farm roads to carry their produce.

There are also questions on who would use the farm roads, feeder roads and national highways built in the recent past and also being continuously built at the cost of billions if people do not own vehicles.

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