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President revises electricity rate hike plan amid growing anger (update)

2012/05/01 22:59:59

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou delayed the government's plan Tuesday to raise electricity rates amid public anger over rising living costs.

The revised plan will reduce the impact of the rate hikes on local households and businesses, he said during a 10-minute press conference.

The president also promised that the government will review the operational efficiency of the state-run power and oil companies.

Under the new plan, the government will implement electricity rate hikes in three stages, with the first and second stages beginning June 10 and Dec. 10, respectively, he said.

The date for the third stage of the hike plan is yet to be determined, as the government will take into account how the state-run power company has carried out reforms before it makes a decision, Ma said.

The ministry announced last month that household electricity rates were to increase by an average of 16.9 percent with effect from May 15. Commercial electricity rates were to rise by 30 percent, while industrial rates were to be hiked by 35 percent, according to the government's original plan.

The president said that when the first stage of the revised plan goes into effect June 10, rates for households will rise by 6.76 percent -- or 40 percent of the original plan.

The second-stage rate hike set for Dec. 10 will be the same percentage, while the third-stage hike will not be implemented until Taiwan Power Co. -- the nation's sole power supplier -- presents a satisfactory and acceptable reform program.

The president said households and small businesses that consume less than 330 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will not be affected by the rate hikes.

He estimated that as a result, 7.56 million households and 300,000 small businesses and shop owners will not have to pay higher electricity bills.

The president held the press conference after having a 3.5-hour meeting with Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang and other senior officials.

The announcement came amid growing anger over higher living costs that have come about as a result of the government's recent decisions to raise electricity rates and fuel prices.

Earlier in the day, over 2,000 protesters took part in a Labor Day demonstration to voice outrage over the rising living costs, among the other work-related problems they are facing.

(By Alex Jiang and S.C. Chang)