Thu, May 03, 2012 - Page 1 News List

New electricity rate plan draws mixed reactions

POLICY FLIP-FLOP:While some lawmakers lauded the change, others called for a further delay in the date of implementation or completely axing the plan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Chris Wang  /  Staff reporters

While President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) announcement late on Tuesday of the government’s plan of a more gradual series of electricity price increases won praise yesterday for heeding the public’s complaints, opposition politicians said the rate increase would be unnecessary if state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) underwent complete reform.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) commended Ma and Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) for sympathizing with people who would feel the added economic burden and for being willing to revise the planned rate increase.

“It’s not easy to overrule the original proposal after it has been promulgated,” Wang said.

Chinese National Federation of Industries chairman Rock Hsu (許勝雄) also praised the change in the planned increase in electricity tariffs.

“It’s better to raise the price in three stages rather than all at once,” Hsu said, adding that the Ma administration had “manifested compassion” and “used wisdom” in handling the issue.

However, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers were divided on the issue.

KMT caucus whip Hsu Yao-chang (徐耀昌) and KMT Legislator Chi Kuo-tung (紀國棟) called a press conference in support of the revised plan and applauded the Ma administration for being willing to take advice from people with an open mind.

Under the new plan, the electricity rate hikes will be executed in three stages, with the first one being implemented on June 10 and the second one on Dec. 10. A date has not been set for the third stage.

Hsu said the Ma administration had no choice but to raise tariffs after being “irrationally frozen” for years, resulting in Taipower accumulating billions in losses.

According to Taipower, cumulative losses from 2008 through the end of February this year were NT$132.2 billion (US$4.48 billion).

However, some KMT lawmakers remain opposed to the new scheme, with KMT legislators Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) and Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) calling on the government to put off the effective date for the first-stage price hike on June 10 until the summer electricity rates end on Sept. 30.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), meanwhile, reiterated that electricity rates should not be raised at this moment.

“A one-off price increase or a three-stage increase ... that’s not the point,” DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said.

Ma has ignored the DPP’s repeated warnings that a wrong policy could trigger retail price increases and stagflation, Lin said, adding that the president’s hastily called press conference at 10pm on Tuesday showed that Ma once again was trying to evade public scrutiny of his major policies.

The DPP legislative caucus also demanded that Ma apologize for his about-face and Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-hsiang (施顏祥) step down for the flip-flop that has caused public unrest.

DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) described Ma’s adjustment plan as “firing three shots to kill a person when you could’ve killed him with one shot.”

Pan cited documents he obtained and accused Taipower of signing overseas coal purchasing deals with prices ranging from US$80 to US$116 per tonne after Ma took office in May 2008.

Taipower did not get cheaper prices from Indonesian and Australian companies for its long-term massive purchases, Pan said, adding that Taipower had signed multiple deals on the same day with differences as large as US$20 per tonne.

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