Fee Increase Slated For Later This Year
The Council of Ministers has canceled a controversial decision to hike electricity rates by as much as 60 percent, following public outcry over the size of the increase.
However, an Electricite du Cambodge official said Sunday that a new price “acceptable to both the public and the government” will be set later this year.
According to a statement issued by the Council of Ministers on Thursday, the decision to cancel the rate hike that was due to go in effect Sept 1 was made after seeing the largely negative public reaction.
“After a decision on the Phnom Penh power price, the government has noted its impact on the living condition of most clients residing in Phnom Penh,” the announcement stated.
“The government always pays attention to the welfare and interest of the people especially in the present situation.”
Council of Ministers and EdC officials refused to say Sunday who pushed for the cancellation during meetings Wednesday and Thursday, calling it only a “government” decision.
The increase—the first since 1994—was approved by the two prime ministers shortly after the July 26 election. Senior government officials said that the request to raise the price had been made earlier in the year by the Finance and Industry ministries but Council of Ministers delayed approval until after the polls for “political” reasons.
The new prices were a slight decrease for foreign residents but a large increase for nearly everyone else. Foreign residents pay more for electricity in Cambodia than nationals. The move was meant to help rescue the cash-strapped utility that has been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars every month.
But the planned hike was met with widespread disapproval by Phnom Penh residents. People expressed concern that they would be unable to afford the increase. Koh Santepheap newspaper called the utility “dictatorial” and the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority warned the new power rates might force the authority to raise water rates in order to pay its own electricity bills.
Water supply Director Ek Soun Chan said Sunday he was pleased with the government’s decision. “The Council of Ministers made the right decision,” he said. “I never wanted to raise the price but there has to be a balance between revenues and expenses.”
In exchange for canceling the rate increase, EdC Deputy Planning Director Ty Norin said, the government has agreed in the short-term to continue to bail out the utility, owned by the Finance and Industry ministries but privately managed.
Electricity users can still expect to soon pay more for their power. Under instructions from the Council of Ministers, the EdC is to set a new price by the end of October, Ty Norin said. He did not elaborate on what process would be used to decide the new price.
By that time, he said, EdC hopes to have reclaimed control of the city’s 94 sub-stations, or cabins, currently being operated by private wholesalers, who buy electricity and then resell it.