Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 11 News List

No decision yet on electricity, water prices: Hsieh

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said yesterday that the government has not yet decided on the impending hikes of electricity and water rates.

Hsieh told reporters when attending a New Year's gathering with business groups yesterday.

Hsieh said interest rates, consumer prices and oil prices and foreign exchange are factors that should be taken into consideration before making the adjustment. If bank interest rates are lower than inflation levels, electricity and water rates should not be increased, he added.

Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥), however, said that water and electricity rates should be hiked, and the timing and range were yet to determined.

Ho said that as far as she knows, Hsieh did not mean that key utility rates would never be raised, only that talks on the issue have been postponed.

As to how long such talks should be delayed, Ho said, "It all depends on the overall economic situation at home as well as how well the utility suppliers are doing financially."

It would not be acceptable to allow the Taiwan Power Co (台電) to go bankrupt because it could not raise rates, she added.

Ho has in the past made clear her intention to raise rates. She said on Dec. 29 that electricity rates will be raised by no more than NT$0.5 per unit, or one kilowatt-hour, given that Taiwan's electricity costs NT$2.07 per unit on average, which is far less than Japan's NT$4.8, Hong Kong's NT$3.74 and even the Philippines' NT$3.56.

For the same reason, she said, the price of water should also be raised, arguing that Taiwan's water rates, now NT$10.77 per ton, are unreasonably cheap compared to NT$62.7 per ton in Germany, NT$56.7 per ton in Denmark, NT$17.5 per ton in the US, NT$14.4 per ton in Canada, and between NT$17 to NT$44 per ton in Hong Kong.

Besides, Ho argued, Taiwan's water rates have remained unchanged for 10 years. A rate hike would also discourage users from wasting water resource, she said.

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