Speaker backs utility hike delay after rain

By Joy Lee ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) yesterday said that it is necessary to postpone scheduled utility rate rises in disaster areas to help residents make it through the tough period they are enduring.

Wang’s comment came after calls by Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), who yesterday suggested the government freeze the prices of water, electricity, gas and fuel. The government should reduce fuel prices for three months in areas hard hit by the past days of torrential rain, Lee said. Wang said that it is the government’s job to take care of people’s day-to-day lives, so it is necessary to postpone planned increases to utility rates. Asked about calls from local government officials that the Cabinet allocate more funds for flood recovery efforts, Wang said that any such move will first require comprehensive planning.

“The government does have to review its flood recovery budget, but it still requires opinions from experts to decide whether funding should be increased,” Wang said.

State-owned Enterprise Commission chief Liu Ming-chung (劉明忠) said that departments for the Ministry of Economic Affairs will consider the suggestions from legislators and local government officials.

Liu added, however, that it is not likely that the government will delay utility hikes.

“The government was able to support people during previous natural disasters because CPC Corp. and Taipower were turning profits, but both of these companies are now in deep debt,” Liu said. ”Therefore it is not likely they will offer subsidies or temporarily halt the utility price increases.”

According to Liu, Taiwpower is currently NT$227 billion in debt, while state oil refiner CPC has recorded a deficit of NT$4.1 billion over the first six months of the year.