Taipei, May 7 (CNA) Taiwan's Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose to 108.04 in April, up 1.44 percent from the year-earlier level, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics reported Monday.
The CPI rise was attributed in part to an average 6.32 percent year-on-year increase in fuel prices, which helped push up the index by 0.24 percentage points in April, the Cabinet-level agency said in a statement.
But a drop in the prices of some fruits and lower telecommunications service charges helped prevent an even sharper rise in the index, it added.
The CPI also rose 0.95 percent on a month-on-month basis, driven higher mainly by increases in the prices of fuel, clothing, cigarette and travel, according to the statement.
Clothing prices were 14.89 percent higher than in March, while fuel prices rose 8.39 percent.
Food prices were down 0.29 percent in April from a month earlier, mainly due to the lower prices of vegetables, meat and eggs, but they were 2.11 percent higher on a year-on-year basis, it said.
Wang Shu-chuan, a section chief with the agency's Department of Statistics, said the government's decision to introduce controversial power rate hikes in three stages rather than all at once as had been originally planned will extend inflationary pressures into next year.
Wang said the agency originally estimated that the electricity hikes would add 0.46 percentage points to this year's inflation rate, but that was trimmed to 0.18 percentage points following the government's revised hike plan.
The phased-in rate hikes will continue, however, to contribute to inflation in 2013, the agency said.
President Ma Ying-jeou announced on May 1 that electricity rates will rise by 40 percent of the originally planned hike on June 10 and by the same percentage again on Dec. 1. The third stage rate hike will be discussed next year.
Meanwhile, ruling Kuomintang legislators Lu Shiow-yen and Sun Ta-chien and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wu Ping-jui criticized the CPI report for failing to faithfully reflect the general public's feelings on consumer prices.
Lu said most food items analyzed in the report were ingredients and not cooked or processed food, which she contended was what most consumers purchase.
The legislator said the price of a simple lunch consisting of a bowl of noodles and a bowl of soup has risen from NT$65 (US$2.20) to NT$75 and that the report failed to reflect the real situation faced in Taiwan.
Agency chief Shih Su-mei disagreed, saying that prices of both raw ingredients and cooked food were considered and that a basket of 424 items was taken into account and realistically reflected prices.
(By Lin Hui-chun, Sofia Wu and Jamie Wang)