Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) yesterday defended the Cabinet's decision to maintain a freeze on the prices of water, electricity, liquefied petroleum gas and fuel oil until the new government is inaugurated on May 20.
Chang denounced criticism from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators at a legislative question-and-answer session that the Cabinet had made the decision in order to leave an "awful mess" for the KMT following the handover.
"I cannot accept being accused of leaving an `awful mess' behind. Amid soaring commodity prices, the difficulties that people face in making a living is the most serious problem the government needs to deal with," Chang said when approached for comment outside the legislature.
Chang said the Cabinet had dealt with proposed price hikes by taking the cost of living into consideration, and added that the issue should not be manipulated by politics.
However, during a question-and-answer exchange with KMT Legislator Hsu Shao-ping (
"From the Ministry of Economic Affairs' perspective, we believe the prices of petroleum and electricity should still be adjusted at the opportune moment," he said.
He did not specify when the opportune moment to unfreeze prices would be, saying only that the ministry needed to consult all sectors before it made suggestions to the Cabinet.
He also said that the Taiwan Power Co and Taiwan Water Corp would lose NT$7 billion (US$229.2 million) a day if utility fees remained frozen until May 20.
In response to the decision not to raise prices, president-elect Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) spokesman Luo Chih-chiang (羅智強) said yesterday that the new government would take care of the inflation issue once it assumes power.
"Any responsible government would take care of the price hike issue and solve the problem," Luo said.
He declined to comment further on the price freeze, but said that the new government would solve the issue while taking care of low-income families.
Utility prices have been frozen since November last year, despite the rise in international crude oil prices.
Cabinet Spokesman Shieh Jhy-wey (
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