Mon, Aug 23, 2004 - Page 10 News List

CEPD says prices on fuel must rise to balance costs

CNA , TAIPEI

As the cost of crude oil continues to soar, an internal assessment report by the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD) said yesterday that local prices are almost certain to rise.

Citing grave international concern over the world's declining crude oil reserves, the CEPD acknowledged that persistently high oil prices is likely to be a long-term trend.

The ratio of Taiwan's oil imports to its total imports slid from 22.8 percent in 1982 to 8.3 percent last year, CEPD statistics show. At the same time, the ratio of Taiwan's oil imports to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) dropped from 8.25 percent to 3.7 percent.

The production value of oil-related businesses as a percentage of Taiwan's GDP fell from 37 percent in 1980 to 27 percent last year, according to the same tallies.

The CEPD forecast that long-term oil prices will climb and called for enhanced research into alternative energy sources.

As a result of the rebounding economy and surging oil prices, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) raised its projected growth rates over the weekend for the wholesale price index and the consumer product index for this year to 6.99 percent and 1.49 percent, respectively.

As to public speculation that rising oil prices may cause Taiwan's economic expansion to grind to a halt, the DGBAS officials said that energy factors exercise a smaller influence on the world economy than in the past.

State-run Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC, 中油), meanwhile, has found itself between a rock and a hard place amid rising costs.

CPC President Chen Bao-lang (陳寶郎) promised in late July that the company would not boost domestic oil prices before the end of August.

But there are now concerns that the pledge will erode the company's full-year profits if it fails to adjust its prices before the start of September to reflect costs.

Statistics compiled by the Commission of National Corporations under the Ministry of Economic Affairs show that the CPC racked up pre-tax profits of NT$14.93 billion (US$439 million) for the first seven months of this year, or 120.36 percent of the target set for the entire year.

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