Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 11 News List

Private sector expresses views on energy prices

‘DEATH BLOW’The prospects of an increase in fuel prices has taxi drivers worried that without assistance from the government their business would be hurt

Representatives of the private sector called on the government yesterday to increase fuel and power prices gradually and to offer complementary measures to mitigate their impact.

The representatives made the appeal in a public hearing on the expected impact of a one-stage fuel and power price increase convened by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) and Chang Hua-kuan (張花冠).

To avoid fanning inflation, the government froze oil prices in December.

Premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) has said that the incoming administration would respect market mechanisms and adjust fuel and electricity prices in one stage rather than in a gradually to reflect the surging price of crude oil, which recently broke the threshold of US$120 a barrel.

Chen Teng (陳燈), head of the Taiwan Taxi Transportation Federation, said he hoped “there will be no price increases, otherwise we will be forced to raise taxi fares.”

He said the government should subsidize taxi drivers and offer them complementary measures.

Liang Ping-liang (梁平良), president of the Taipei City Taxi Transportation Federation, echoed Chen’s views, saying that taxi drivers were worried they would lose customers if taxi fares were raised.

“If the government increases prices in one stage, then the subsidies for taxi drivers should also be in one stage,” he said.

He said that the present passenger rate was only about 30 percent and that if the new government raised prices sharply it would be like “dealing a death blow” to taxi drivers.

Mary Chen (陳曼麗), head of the National Union of Taiwan Women Association, called for gradual price increases, adding that the government should make it clear it “will not raise the prices again after the major increase.”

Lee said fuel and electricity prices should be raised separately, adding that “the government should also propose measures to assist underprivileged groups and report on how the price increases would affect the economy.”

He said fuel prices for motorcycles, trucks and vehicles used in agriculture and fisheries should be raised separately and in reflection of their categories.

As energy prices for the summer period — between June 1 and Sept. 30 — were already higher to encourage energy conservation, the government should not raise fuel and power prices simultaneously lest it add to inflationary pressures, Lee said.

“The best time would be sometime after summer,” he said.

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