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Kyrgyzstan to raise heating and electricity rates
Move is considered a step toward energy independence
By Aibek Karabaev
With the nation’s energy system worn out and suffering high losses, Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov has announced that Kyrgyz heating and electricity rates will increase January 1.
That has people worried about how they’ll pay to stay warm this winter.
“I will have to spend about half of my pension on heating and energy”, said Bishkek retiree Mytsyslava Epuryanu said she will have to spend about half of her pension on heating and energy.. The cost of 1 kWh will increase to 1.5 som (US$0.04) from 0.71 som (US$0.02). On July 1, the second stage of the rate increase will begin, with one gigacalorie costing 2,500 soms, instead of the current 500. Epuryanu said her pension is 3,000 soms per month. She calculates that she is going to pay twice as much for heating her apartment, which uses one gigacalorie per month.
The same goes for electricity.
“That means that if, in January, I pay 300 soms for electricity and 1,000 soms for heat, then all that will remain is half of my pension”. In spite of this, she said, “If, for this price, the country’s inhabitants will be able to free themselves of the rolling electrical blackouts, which have been going on for the second year in a row in Kyrgyzstan, then it will be fine”.
But Cholponbek Kadyrov, head of the Kyrgyz branch of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, said the impact will not be as bad as some fear.
“President Bakiyev issued a decree to give aid to those who will not be able to pay their bills on their own. Ninety-five percent of pensioners fall into the category of these beneficiaries”, Kadyrov said.
But an opposition leader and head of the Ak Shumkar party, Timir Sariyev, doubts the additional revenue will go to the energy sector.
“Money collected from the increased billing rates going to the needs of the Republic’s energy sector is not something that we are able to speak clearly of so long as there is no truly transparent system of governance in the energy sector”, he told Central Asia Online.
He said rather than rate increases, the government should reduce energy transmission losses and the theft of electricity.
“Presently, our overall energy loss is up to 40 percent. But few people are stealing; generally the theft comes from the highest circles: the management of the energy companies”, Sariyev said.
Both the political opposition and the non-governmental sector have proposed a delay in the rate increases.
Toktaiym Umetalieva, chairwoman of the Kyrgyzstan Association for Nongovernmental and Not-for-profit Organisations, said there has been no technical justification for raising the rates, and no explanation as to how exactly the new rates were developed.
Umetalieva said the government is trying to make the country’s inhabitants pay for the losses that occur before the electricity gets to their homes.
Sources in the government analytical department told Central Asia Online the money will be used for repairs, and the first results of the increase in rates will be seen within the year.
“The repairs will begin on substations and transformers, and part of the sum will be devoted to the construction of large energy facilities”, said one government analyst.
First Deputy Prime Minister of Economic Affairs Akylbek Japarov, one of the developers of the new energy rates, told Central Asia Online the public needs to accept the new rates and find ways to pay for energy.
“Every inhabitant of the country is wasting about 1,000 soms on their cell phone every month. So why not be a bit tighter with your own expenses? By the way, the idea of prepayment, which is used with cell phones, we will transfer to energy relations. If you pay you will have electricity; if you do not pay you will not have it”.
In southern Kyrgyzstan, which faces the direst energy shortages, Markhaba Saileyeva, a housewife and mother of six, said she has started watching Kyrgyz news for the first time in recent years.
“As soon as we heard that we are going to pay more for electricity, we turned on the Bishkek station. To tell the truth, many people are talking about this increase, but we still cannot get how much we are going to pay after the New Year”, she said.
Saileyeva said her husband is a baker, who will have to increase the price of bread to pay the new energy rates. But Umetalieva said the baker is not the only who will be raising prices, and expects prices on food and other products will increase along with energy prices.
“The Prime Minister says that goods will go up 5 percent in cost. The price of food and all other products, all of which need electricity to be produced, are growing. They never should have rushed to this increase. We need to look at other alternatives”, she said.