Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Hau rules out bus fare hike

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) promised yesterday not to raise bus fares for a year despite the recent gas price hikes.

"The city government will continue subsidizing passengers to encourage the public to use public transportation as gas prices keep climbing," Hau said at a gathering for the press at Taipei City Hall.

Hau also promised not to raise MRT prices.

The standard bus fare has stayed at NT$15 for almost a decade. Former mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had promised not to raise fares during his two terms.

Taipei's Department of Transportation said the city government paid bus companies NT$1.4 billion (US$42.6 million) in subsidies last year.

While promising not to raise bus fares, Hau acknowledged that his government may not be able to keep taxi fares from rising.

On Wednesday, the Taipei City Taxi Union presented two fare proposals to the transportation department.

The department said it was not unreasonable for the union to want a fare raise, and that a fare hike would would still be two to three months away because it has to review the proposals and so does the fare-review committee.

Taipei taxi fares were last raised on Dec. 1, 2000. The city government considered raising the flag-fall rate by as much as NT$25 in 2005, but ended up reducing the vehicle license tax and fuel tax for taxi drivers.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) downplayed reports of consumer price hikes yesterday, saying the Executive Yuan's information showed that the situation was not as serious as reports have suggested.

For example, vegetable prices have dropped in recent weeks, he said.

Shieh urged the media to provide "balanced reporting."

"Until now, the price fluctuations have been within a normal range so the government will not interfere," Shieh said.

He said the government had attempted to intervene before to limit the risk of inflation but that "had been against the free market mechanism, so we would not do that again."

He said the Cabinet will work on subsidy programs to help those who have been seriously affected by the recent gasoline price hikes to help tide them over.

On July 5, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said the consumer price index rose 0.10 percent last month from a year earlier and was up 0.61 percent year-on-year for the first half of the year.

A closer look at the agency's inflation report showed the wholesale price index -- which measures production costs -- rose 5.54 percent last month and was up 7.11 percent for the first half of the year, indicating that price pressures are building for manufacturers.

Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang, CNA and staff writer

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