Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) is depriving the nation’s disabled people who require long hours of care of their much-needed subsidy by drastically increasing electricity prices, the Alliance for the Disabled said yesterday.
Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲), secretary-general of the alliance, said for the first time in seven years the disabled subsidy was increased in January by between 16.67 percent and 17.5 percent, but recent price increases, particularly the drastic electricity rate increases of between 16.9 percent and 35 percent on May 15, have outpaced the increase in the subsidy.
“President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) claimed that higher electricity prices, as well as the increase in [petroleum-based] fuel prices would boost the ‘maturation process of Taiwanese society,’ but the fact is that such a move only strips disabled people of their right to life, given their daily demand for energy-consuming care equipment,” she said.
Wang said organizations that provide care services project a 20 percent increase in their operating costs, while operators in charge of sheltered workshops estimate a 30 percent surge in their electricity bills.
“Disabled people need special care equipment and devices to facilitate their daily activities, which means it is difficult for these households to reduce their consumption of electricity,” Wang said, adding that the new rates would further increase their monthly electricity costs.
Wang cited those people who use a respirator and an oxygen concentrator, saying they already pay a NT$4,500 monthly electricity bill under the summer electricity rate and NT$3,700 the rest of year, while the new electricity rate would increase their monthly electricity bill by NT$950, or between 26 percent and 33 percent.
Although the government has stipulated that the disabled subsidy be adjusted in accordance with the growth rate of the Consumer Price Index every four years, such a mechanism still cannot cope with critical situations like the one faced now by disabled people, Wang said.
To safeguard the care quality of disabled people, Wang called on Taipower to provide more favorable electricity rates specifically for disabled people. Her group also urged the government to grant social welfare groups electricity and fuel subsidies.
In response, Taipower spokesman Roger Lee (李鴻洲) said the company had acknowledged the appeals by all sectors of society, but it could not make any promise to a certain group of people, as it would spark a domino effect.
Lee advised the government to carry out a thorough review of the issue to determine whether to stipulate relevant regulations or grant subsidies, adding that Taipower would cooperate with any government decision.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said it would hold a meeting with the Department of Social Affairs within the next few days to brief welfare groups, after factoring in public opinion, and further deliberate on a possible aid scheme.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, staff writer