Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Nation has rock-bottom utilities prices: DPP whip

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

The nation's utility rates are the lowest among the four "Asian Tigers," a legislative party whip of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) claimed yesterday.

According to William Lai (賴清德), Taiwan not only has the lowest oil costs and electricity and water rates compared to those in Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea, the nation's tap water is even cheaper than in most Southeast Asian countries.

Lai said that despite spiraling international oil prices -- Taiwan is almost wholly dependant on imported oil -- the DPP administration has tried its best to keep utility rates down.

Lai made the remarks after the government's statistics bureau reported Friday that the consumer price index rose 2.37 percent last month from a year earlier, as a result of food price increases during the typhoon season and higher oil prices.

The higher-than-expected CPI, along with the price hikes by both Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油) and Formosa Petrochemical Corp (台塑石化) for fuel oil and natural gas last week, have raised public concern that commodity prices may go up further in the coming months.

Furthermore, the state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) reportedly drafted a proposal to raise electricity prices for the first time in more than two decades amid increasing fuel costs.

The company claimed the recent increases in domestic fuel prices may widen its losses to NT$4.7 billion (US$14.7 million) this year, from an original estimate of NT$3.1 billion.

Amid accusations that the government has failed to react to a distinct rise in the "misery index" -- the unemployment rate plus the rate of inflation -- Lai said that the rise in inflation is temporary and is due to the last two typhoons that hit the nation over the past month and flooded many areas in southern Taiwan.

Lai called for concerted efforts from both the governing and opposition parties to jointly solve the current problems.

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