l Karma Yuden, Thimphu
Bhutan’s National Airline, Druk Air, is being provided a subsidy of Nu 300,000 per flight for domestic flights, so that the Airline does not incur a loss. However, Tashi Airlines will not get such a subsidy as it is a private airline. Minister for Information and Communications informed this to the National Assembly (NA), in reply to questions raised by the opposition member from Dremtse-Ngatshang, Mongaar, Ugyen Wangdi.
The opposition member wanted to know if the government has plans to offer such subsidies to any other airline and also the duration of the subsidy being offered to Druk Air. “Is the subsidy for an indefinite period?” he asked.
In his reply, Minister, Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC), DN Dhungyel, said that the subsidy offered to Druk Air is just to reach the breakeven point and assure that the Airline does not incur losses. The Minister further added that domestic flights are in line with the government’s policy to promote tourism in the East. The government arrived at the figure of Nu 300,000 per flight, after intense exercises conducted by the ministry of finance. Lyonpo informed that without the subsidy, Druk Air would not be in a position to operate any domestic flights. However, per-flight meant a flight from Paro to Gelephu and then Yongphula and back on the same track. “If a flight just goes to Gelephu from Paro and returns, the subsidy availed will not be Nu 300,000. An amount based on the ratio will be given,” the minister underlined.
Concerning duration of the subsidy, Lyonpo DN Dhungyel informed that the first period will be for six months, after which a study will be conducted to assess if the airline can operate the domestic flights without subsidies. If the assessment shows that the subsidy has to be extended, the government would have no alternatives ,but to do so. “We want to stabilize the market for domestic flights,” the minister said.
The Question Hour also saw the minister replying to queries about security concerning offering Google the mandate to provide internet services and mobile services in the highlands. Bomdeling-Jamkhar Member of Parliament, Duptho, asked the former question. He also asked why the government was not letting domestic firms to take up these services.
The MoIC minister informed that Google is a respected global firm, whose services are used by several nations, including the United States. He said that breach of security from a globally reputed firm like Google is not a possibility. On questions about providing the opportunity to domestic firms, he said that the doors are open if there are capable home based firms to take up the venture.
North Thimphu MP raised questions on mobile services in the highlands. In his reply, Lyonpo DN Dhungyel informed that without electricity supply, up gradation to 3G and 4G services are not possible. However, he said that with Bhutan getting ready to connect with the South Asian satellite very soon, the possibilities of providing services such as nationwide reach of Bhutan Broadcasting Services (BBS) television, mobile connectivity and others are very near.