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Taiwan government might spread electricity hike over two stages

Laborers mark Labor Day with protest against price rises

Taiwan government might spread electricity hike over two stages

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The government was considering spreading this month’s planned hike in the price of electricity over two stages in a response to widespread public dissatisfaction, reports said Tuesday.
The original rise, scheduled for May 15, would have amounted to 29.5 percent, but a new formula would see the first hike limited to 15 percent, with a second rise of 14.5 percent to occur on October 1, reports said.
The likely change followed a humiliating defeat for the ruling Kuomintang in last Saturday’s Lukang mayoral by-election. The KMT candidate won only 28 percent of the vote in what many considered to be a popularity test for the government of President Ma Ying-jeou.
Vice President Vincent Siew and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng were reportedly the main supporters of a new formula at a government and party meeting Monday evening. Ma followed suit by asking the Cabinet and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to consider the measure. The spread of the increase was also mentioned last week by business associations during a meeting attended by Ma.
Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang said his staff was making all the necessary calculations to see how a two-stage rise would impact the economy as well as the state-run Taiwan Power Corporation. Media reports put losses for the company at NT$33 billion (US$1.1 billion) if the new plan were implemented.
Lawmakers who met with Shih said he had told them about different possibilities, but that no final decision had been made yet. One suggestion, to postpone the rises until after the summer, would cost Taipower NT$40 billion (US$1.3 billion), Shih reportedly said.
Opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union legislator Hsu Chun-hsin said he would not discuss the issue with Shih. Not only was there a need for a reconsideration of the price hikes, but Taipower also needed to reform its way of doing things, he said.
Thomas Lee of the opposition People First Party said the MOEA should present its full range of new measures to the Legislative Yuan before the government reached a decision. He demanded full disclosure of the decision-making process and of the factors that played a part in any new pricing formula.
Even if the government decided to slow down the electricity hike, many price rises of food products would not be turned back, reports said. Some producers said their increases were the result of more expensive raw materials and were not directly related to energy prices. Others said the government’s sudden change had come too late to avoid rises. A lower energy hike would only help in averting future rises, some observers said.
In addition to political pressure as shown by the Lukang election result, the government on Monday also reduced its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.38 percent, while raising its prediction for inflation to 1.94 percent. The government target for the rise in the Consumer Price Index this year is 2 percent, and Shih earlier said he would resign if inflation went higher.
More than a thousand members of labor organizations and their supporters took to the streets of Taipei Tuesday to launch a protest to oppose government policies and price rises. Students threw paper airplanes into the grounds of the Ministry of Education to protest against increases in school fees and in the cost of living in general.
The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party has chosen May 19, the eve of Ma’s swearing-in for his second and final term, as the date for marches through the capital. The party wants Ma to apologize and Premier Sean Chen to resign.
In addition, DPP activists also want to launch impeachment procedures against KMT lawmakers, while a group of local DPP politicians began Monday with a series of daily protest sit-ins on Ketagalan Boulevard, the road in front of the Presidential Office Building.


Updated : 2021-07-25 17:13 GMT+08:00