DPP wants legislative vote to freeze power prices

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The opposition Democratic Progressive Party said Wednesday the Legislative Yuan should hold a vote about the October 1 power rate hikes announced by the government.
The party advocates an electricity price freeze, while many lawmakers in the ruling Kuomintang originally said they were unable to back rising rates. A similar rise in March last year provoked a speeding up of inflation and contributed to President Ma Ying-jeou’s low popularity ratings.
The package presented by the Ministry of Economic Affairs Tuesday contains an average rise of 9.2 percent, instead of the expected 10 percent, and was unlikely to affect 85.7 percent of households, according to government data.
The Legislative Yuan made a decision to freeze electricity prices, yet the Cabinet used the opportunity of the summer recess to push through new increases, in effect negating the Legislature as well as the public’s feelings, said DPP legislative whip Lawrence Kao.
Once the Legislative Yuan resumed its normal work next month, the opposition would put the subject on the agenda and force a vote to show everybody who stood on the side of the public on the issue, Kao said. Some KMT lawmakers said they could not accept the price hikes, but only a vote would show whether they meant what they said, according to the DPP legislator.
A current campaign to recall lawmakers too close to Ma should also take the KMT members’ stance on the electricity price into account, he said.
Ruling party lawmakers on the Economics Committee said they would file a proposal to freeze the budget of Taiwan Power Corporation. Critics of the price rise said the company should present a reform package first before it could be allowed to hike rates.
If the issue came to a vote next month, KMT legislative caucus leaders said they would put party discipline first and take disciplinary measures against members who broke ranks.
They accused the DPP of siding with major industrial energy users because under the new government measures, only those large companies would face power rate increases. The DPP should not be using taxpayers’ funds to cover high electricity usage by Big Business, the KMT legislators said.
The MOEA plan unveiled Tuesday will leave prices unchanged for 9.85 million households using less than 500 kilowatt-hours per month and for more than 700,000 small businesses with a monthly consumption of 700 kWh or less. Large businesses could face hikes of up to 12.2 percent, though that figure was also cut from 13.6 percent in the original proposal, the government said.
Critics said the price of energy should not go up at all, especially since the country’s economy is facing a feeble performance, with both the government and think tanks repeatedly downgrading forecasts for this year’s economic growth. Despite initial government promises of more than 3 percent, most observers now agree that Taiwan’s Gross Domestic Product is unlikely to expand by more than 2.5 percent.