As the dispute over nuclear energy continues, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) yesterday said that a 10 percent rise in electricity rates would boost inflation by 0.359 percentage points and trim 0.13 percentage points off annual GDP growth.
However, when asked how much power rates would rise if the government abandons construction of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Gongliao District (貢寮), the DGBAS could not provide specifics.
“We need various government agencies to provide related data” to be able to make an evaluation, DGBAS Minister Shih Su-mei (石素梅) said during a question-and-answer session at the legislature’s Finance Committee.
Lawmakers said that the agency should collect the necessary data and present a report within a month on the potential impact on electricity rates, consumer prices and economic growth should the government abandon the plant.
Nuclear power now accounts for 18.6 percent of the nation’s power consumption, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sun Ta-chien (孫大千) said.
Sun said the public would have to pay more if it does not want the government to operate the plant.
However, KMT Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) suspected the impact would be slight, as the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is only one of the nation’s nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, at the legislature’s Economics Committee, Council for Economic Planning and Development Minister Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) said the agency would present a report assessing the impact of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant on the economy and industry within three months.
“The council will take a more pro-active role in providing the analysis, although we have never done such an assessment before,” Kuan said.
On Saturday, about 200,000 people marched through the streets of Taiwan, calling on the government to phase out the use of nuclear power, ahead of the two-year anniversary of Japan’s March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The nuclear power issue has recently grabbed the public’s attention, prompting Premier Jiang Yi-huah’s (江宜樺) to announce on Feb. 25 that the government would hold a referendum on whether to continue construction of the the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) said the council should provide the impact assessment before the referendum takes place, while KMT Legislator Lee Guei-min (李貴敏) said it should study whether there was a threat of power shortage if construction of the plant was halted, because the three existing nuclear power plants would terminate operations by 2025.
Asked about current economic conditions, Shih and Kuan said the economy was improving and there was a chance that companies would offer salary increases this year.
Shih said that GDP could grow by more than 3 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, following annualized growth of 3.72 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
That would pave the way for a much-anticipated pay raise as the growth rate would meet the government’s target for the Council of Labor Affairs to raise the nation’s minimum monthly wage to NT$19,047 from NT$18,780.
The government said last year that it would increase the wage only after the nation posted GDP growth of more 3 percent for two consecutive quarters.
While the nation still has to carefully watch the European debt crisis, the brighter economic prospects this year may make a salary increase possible, Kuan said.
Last month, the DGBAS forecast that GDP would grow by 3.26 percent in the first quarter and that full-year growth would reach 3.59 percent.