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Taipower budget review put off again after talks fail

2012/05/21 14:12:31

Taipei, May 21 (CNA) Lawmakers from across party lines decided Monday to again postpone a review of this year's budget for state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), as the company failed to submit a revised new budget report to reflect the current situation.

Given the fact that the budget report was compiled 18 months ago and did not include the important factors of impending power rate hikes and future company reforms, lawmakers decided not to review the budget and did not give a specific timeframe as to when any review would resume.

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Tai-hua contended that the country's largest power supplier should take back the report and compile a new one, while ruling Kuomintang Legislator Yang Chiung-ying preferred a simpler revision of the report, to avoid delaying the review until the next legislative session.

As of early afternoon, the legislature had not come to an agreement on whether the budget report should be revised or withdrawn and when it will be reviewed, although some analysts said the review is likely to be put off to this year's second session, which begins in September.

The delayed review of the company's annual budget will not affect its current operations, according to the lawmakers.

Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang said that his ministry will continue to negotiate and communicate across party lines.

Shih noted that Taipower did not re-compile the budget report when there were power rate hikes in 2006 and 2008, respectively, saying that it is the lawmakers that should take the information provided by the state-run company into consideration and make adjustments accordingly.

Taipower is expected to lose NT$86.1 billion (US$2.91 billion) this year, which would push its accumulated losses to some NT$190 billion by the end of 2012, according to the ministry.

The company's operations have come under close public scrutiny since the government announced in early April that electricity rates would be raised substantially in May to help the company offset its mounting losses.

Some critics have contended that some of the company's losses are due to poor management and bloated pay scales and that consumers and the private sector should not have to pay for Taipower's waste and inefficiency.

In the face of the public outrage, President Ma Ying-jeou announced a revised policy that will see power rate hikes introduced in three stages rather than all at once as had been originally planned.

According to the plan, electricity rates in the first two stages will rise by 9 percent, 21 percent and 27 percent, on average, for household, commercial and industrial users, respectively, according to the ministry.

The originally planned one-time electricity hike was 29.6 percent.

(By James Lee)