Saturday, November 11, 2017

Petrolium Politics again.

The huge reduction in petrol and diesel price announced by Bhutan Government must be making every driver jubilant. It could also have a rippling relief effect down the line in transportation fares and ultimately to lowering cost of goods at retail level. There is a huge positive boost to overall Bhutanese economy if proper effective monitoring can be implemented.

I have one dark worry about this excise relief provided by India on petrol and diesel imported by Bhutan on the pretext of which Bhutan government has reduced the retail price of petrol and deisel. Surely so many Bhutanese hearts are won by this.

This Indian excise decision comes so close to the heel of the recenlty concluded Bhutanese  Royal Family visit to India. I just hate the possibility of India candy treating our King. Druk Yul cannot afford the return expectations ( candy price ) of the Government of India. And I am quite suspicious of the move of our own government in delivering this appearance of Indian gift to the Bhutanese drivers. I call it " appearance of gift " because there is no real value since Bhutan is eligible to the refund of the excise levied. The difference is timing. 

The excise amount that India levies on petrol and diesel imported by Bhutan is in any case refundable to Bhutan under existing Agreement. So this excise waiver now at source at the time of import is not too different in monetary value from refunding the same at a later date. Therefore Bhutan as a nation neither looses nor gains by this decision of India. 

However, the people of Bhutan are made to feel grateful to India for nothing by this action of Bhutanese Government in passing the excise amount benefit to the consumers now.  The Government could have passed the excise benefit to the consumer long time back if it wanted as it was always getting full refund from India. 

The Bhutanese government could have kept the excise duty in place and instead waived off the 5% sales tax on petrol and diesel that it had levied since coming to power. That way the reduction in price would be less but uncalled for gratitude to India nil. 

I really wish that Bhutan Governnent had not brought the dignity of the 4th King into this politics of the Governments of India and Bhutan. The Kingships of Bhutan are not commodities. It is high time that all involved parties India, Bhutanese Government and our Kings respected the very essence of the Institution of Bhutanese  Monarchy that was  installed by the people of Bhutan on 17th December, 1907. If the 4th King rejoices at this political play on his birthday then Druk Yul is in a more severe second Doklam stage. Along with future diplomatic relationship with China and necessary conclusion of  Northern Border Talks, we would be writting off total sovereignty too.  

A better and uniform BirthDay gift if the government wanted to disburse to the people to celebrate the auspicious occasion would have been waiving off the 5% sales tax on mobile voucher. Though under democracy I would never go for associating the Kings with taxation whether waiver or hiking.

And definitely I am against cash gift to the nation by India when our King visits Delhi. A proper goodwill and true friendship gesture would be according sovereign respect and dignity to Bhutan. And that India never intends. So Bhutan needs a combined dedicated national will power of democracy and Monarchy to assert our own sovereign respect and dignity.




  1. Suddenly making commodities artificially cheaper is not a long-term solution that strengthens our sovereignty. I fully agree with the author on this issue of national importance. When petrol and diesel are more expensive in the country that we import from, this cannot be good. This is common sense. In previous years, the excise amount was refunded to the government of Bhutan; now the attempt is to give it back to the people – there is merit in this because it was the people’s money to begin with. But, people did not complain in the past when the government took the excise refund because we assumed it was going for overall development of the country.

    Passing on over Nu. 2 billion to the car owners is not democratic. To put it in perspective, that is over $30 million. What about the majority of people who do not own cars and are therefore not directly affected? One could say, “But the excise was collected from car owners, and not everyone.” By that argument, they are also using roads and infrastructure that was built by the state more than others; they pollute the air, which everyone has to breathe and the argument can go on. Of course, it is hoped that the drop in petrol and diesel price will lead to a drop in commodity prices, but we don’t know if that will happen. The government may further interfere in price control and prevent free-market mechanisms operating on the principles of supply and demand. Wouldn’t more Bhutanese be affected if cooking gas prices were dropped instead? More Bhutanese depend on that than on vehicle fuel. It is easy politically to get rid of tax, but very difficult to raise it. Tax hikes are politically damaging and getting rid of taxes can make a political party popular. When people are not complaining about the ‘dirty tax’ on a product that we solely import, is not good for our environment, and is used by only people who have cash income, removing it just like that is a disservice to the country if you look hard. Higher prices can control import. Places like Thimphu are getting congested with imported cars, and we need more efficient pubic transport. Over Nu. 2 billion+ that could have gone to the 12th FYP, the Health Trust Fund to fund vaccines for all Bhutanese, or to set up efficient public transport is now doled out to car owners. For a country to strengthen its sovereignty we need to broaden our revenue base, and sensible taxation is one way to do that. We cannot fold our hands and go begging for funds to run a welfare state. That is damaging to our sovereignty because we are beholden to those foreign entities again. Here we had one small opportunity to slowly ask for less from India, and we blew it.

    While we respect our neighbours, we cannot fully trust their motives. Elections are just around the corner, and all political parties should have Bhutan’s sovereignty foremost in their minds. PLEASE stop dragging the sanctity of our Bodhisattva monarchs into politics. We need a constitutional order that prohibits political parties from using the sacredness of His Majesty and the Royal Family in their schemes. Every Bhutanese should espouse whole-hearted allegiance and loyalty to the Royal Family from deep within our hearts. For without that, we should be ashamed to even call ourselves Bhutanese.

  2. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka......

  3. Bhutan's relationship with India and our border talks with China are the result of careful nurturing of a fragile seed by our successive Kings. It is critical that Bhutan maintains a dignified and friendly relationship with our neighbours. It is the sacred duty of every serving government to maintain and further these ties. For any politician to claim that this prime minister or that prime minister has developed a special relationship with this neighbor or that neighbour is a careless and selfish political utterance that undermines our sovereignty. I cannot fathom the idiocy, short-sightedness, and selfishness in making such a statement. Everything about this rubs against the grain of self-reliance. Such a statement also implies that if a certain party other than the one the neighbor is friendly with comes to power, then we may not get the necessary funds. These are thinly veiled threats to Bhutanese voters to vote in a certain way. Do we want foreign interference at that level? This is how politicians slowly and unwittingly play us into the hands of foreign powers, even if they appear friendly. For the sake of politics, let us not sell our country, please. A true neighbor and friend should respect and support any government that our people choose to govern us. Otherwise, the friendship is not genuine.

    Have you noticed how our monarchs have, over the decades, maintained excellent, respectful relationship with not only the ruling governments but also the opposition parties of India? Our wise monarchs knew that in a democracy, governance is unpredictable – you never know which party will come into power next. For Bhutan, the next government should be one that can lead us towards self-reliance, not further away from it. This is why everything about making a chief import, in this case, petrol and diesel, artificially cheap is worrisome. Instead of passing on the ‘savings’ to our happy citizenry, if the government had thought of putting it towards weaning ourselves away from foreign influence, that would have served a higher purpose. But, I guess the country is in election mode now. Populism and mudslinging will soon commence. We are happy with any government that our people will bring into power next (including the present one), but boy do we have our work cut out for us.

    Again, our plea to all the political parties – PLEASE do not drag the sacredness of our King and Royal Family when you take a political stand. Without any doubt, our Kings have only the welfare of the people and country in their minds, 24/7. It is our duty to keep Bhutan from being dragged into the divisiveness of politics. All of us should want what is truly best for our country. And this is best achieved when we are all united. Palden Drukpa Gyalo!