Power-Rate Debate Continues

With criticism mounting over the impending price hike for power rates, the Council of Mi­nisters held a closed door meeting Wednesday with Electri­cite du Cambodge officials to discuss the new prices.

EdC Director General Tan Kimvin was mum Wednesday eve­ning on the outcome and said one more meeting would be held. He would not comment on whether they were considering lowering the rates.

EdC officials last week confirmed that the government had approved a 60 percent rate hike, effective Sept 1. Senior government officials have said the in­crease was held off until after the elections for “political” reasons.

Phnom Penh residents have since been complaining that the increase is too steep.

“From now on I will ask my family members to not use the TV or radio so much because it will cost a lot of money,” said Hop Bunkim, a Tuol Kok resident.

Earlier this week, the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority warned it may be forced to raise water rates by as much as 60 percent in order to pay its own electricity bills.

Electricity wholesalers this week added their voices to the discontent.

The city has 106 wholesalers who buy electricity and resell it, although the power utility is trying to reclaim the power cabins from the independent operators. One power cabin owner said he might have to raise his sale price to as much as 1,000 riel, a 50 percent increase.

“People are going to be upset with me,” he said.

The price rise is part of an overall plan to rescue the cash-strapped power utility, which has lost $1 million a year since 1995 and is losing several hundred thousand dollars every month.

The utility started a privatization process in 1996 but is still owned by the ministries of Industry and Finance. The decision to request a price hike was made by a seven-member board of directors, which since Oct 1997 has been responsible for overseeing the company’s general management. Board members have received a monthly “performance” payment of $300 a month, Tan Kimvin said.



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