The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday urged the government to take steps to lower domestic commodity prices before the distribution of consumer vouchers ahead of the Lunar New Year.
“If the government fails to do so, the consumer coupon program may not be able to effectively stimulate consumer spending as policymakers have expected,” said Wu Jia-cheng (吳家誠), secretary-general of the foundation.
When commodity prices began to skyrocket on the international market more than a year ago, he said, local prices for many daily necessities rose substantially to reflect the global trend.
However, local prices failed to follow the downward trend in the global market when international energy and grain prices tumbled in the second half of last year because of a worldwide economic downturn, Wu said.
Much to the chagrin of consumers, Wu said, state-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan raised its liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) price by NT$28 (US$0.85) for a 20kg cylinder on Friday.
At a time when the domestic economy is mired in a recession and international energy prices are falling, Wu said the LPG price hike was absurd.
Saying that the domestic market was small, Wu added that if the government failed to come up with measures favorable to dropping prices, then the consumer vouchers would be unable to spur private consumption and boost the slumping retail sector as expected.
The government is scheduled to begin distribution of NT$3,600 in consumer vouchers to Taiwanese citizens and their foreign spouses starting on Jan. 18 in an effort to rev up the sluggish economy.
A Government Information Office (GIO) official said on Friday that the GIO has prepared 8 million copies of a leaflet that promotes maximum use of the vouchers to be distributed to more than 23.18 million eligible people.
Taiwanese and their foreign spouses will be eligible to collect the vouchers at township and district offices throughout the country’s 25 cities and counties, as arranged by the Ministry of the Interior.
A GIO official said the leaflets would be distributed starting on Saturday with notices for people to claim their vouchers.
The leaflet will include information on good online shopping deals and where daily necessities can be purchased online at discount prices with the vouchers prior to the Lunar New Year holiday that begins on Jan. 25.