The government is suspending a planned increase in electricity rates that was originally scheduled to take effect in December, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) announced yesterday.
Chen said the decision to delay the price hikes until Oct. 1 next year, after seasonally adjusted higher level summer electricity rates come to an end on Sept. 30, was based on the current economic situation and general living conditions.
Postponing the rate hike was the consensus of government officials and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Presidential Office Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) said on Sunday after lawmakers met with the Presidential Office and Cabinet officials to discuss the policy.
With state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) suffering heavy losses, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced in May a three-stage electricity price hike plan.
The plan involved raising household electricity prices by 16.9 percent, commercial rates by 30 percent and industrial usage rates by 35 percent. The first stage, accounting for 40 percent of the total planned increase, took effect on June 10. Another 40 percent of the planned increase was to have taken effect on Dec. 10, but that has now been postponed.
There was no definite timeline for the remaining 20 percent of the rate hike, which was to be put in place once Taipower streamlined its operations to a level that satisfied the government.
Taipower union secretary-general Pan Hsin-chung (潘興中) yesterday urged the government to introduce a floating mechanism for electricity rates so that actual fuel costs can be reflected in electricity prices.
A similar mechanism is used to adjust gasoline and diesel prices on a weekly basis.
In related developments, the premier yesterday unveiled five major aspects of the Cabinet’s future work, with a focus on economic stimulus measures aimed at helping tackle the nation’s economic slowdown.
One of the top tasks is to “map out new economic development and strengthen local industries,” Chen said at a meeting held by the KMT for the Cabinet and KMT lawmakers to discuss priority bills during the second legislative session, which is set to begin today.
The Cabinet “will take the responsibility of addressing the tough challenges” in the face of the country’s economic downturn, Chen said.
Last month, Taiwan cut its GDP growth forecast for this year to 1.66 percent, from a previous estimate of 2.08 percent a month earlier, as unemployment rose for the third consecutive month.
In the future, the government will put more effort into pushing for free-trade agreements or other economic cooperation pacts with other countries, Chen added.
It is also aiming to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership to further boost Taiwan’s international trade, he said.
The Cabinet unveiled an economic stimulus plan on Sept. 11 that includes helping local industries expand their export markets and become more diverse, strengthening talent development and boosting investment.