Fri, Feb 07, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Energy reserves boosted on war worries

AFP , TAIPEI

The nation has increased its energy reserves amid growing concerns that rising prices could hurt the economy if the looming US-led war against Iraq is protracted, officials said yesterday.

"The energy reserves we have are much higher than the required levels," said Wang Yu-ming, spokesman for the energy commission, which is under the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The economics ministry has set up a special group, led by Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Steve Chen (陳瑞隆), to monitor geopolitical developments, with the group reporting twice a week to the cabinet.

State-run Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) said petroleum prices will be increased next week.

"Oil prices should have been raised some time ago," Chinese Petroleum Chairman Kuo Chin-tsai (郭進財) said. "The reason the weren't was because the economy was struggling."

Chinese Petroleum, which controls 75 percent of the Taiwanese market, imports 230 million barrels of crude oil a year.

The semi-official Chung-Hua Institute for Economic Research said if the war ends quickly, the domestic economy could grow 3.7 percent this year, up from the original forecast of 3.6 percent. If the war lasts more than six weeks, economic growth may be only 2 percent, it said.

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