Reluctant support for staggered rise

17:04, December 17, 2009      

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Most public representatives at a hearing on water costs yesterday said they supported an increase in the cost of tap water for next year because they had "no alternative".

Among the 25 representatives at the special hearing on water price, three rejected outright the government's two proposals.

Authorities offered a one-time increase from 3.7 yuan to 4.6 yuan per cu m and a 0.30 yuan increase for each year from next year until 2012.

The three delegates also insisted they would only accept a differential pricing system.

"There are no real alternatives," said Shen Lenian, an outspoken retired professor from Tsinghua University. "If there is no chance to vote for differential pricing, I have no choice but to select the small-scale hike."

The 25 representatives were invited by the municipal development and reform commission to comment on its price hike proposals. The hearing came as Beijing's water authorities urged the municipal government to increase prices from next year to protect its scarce water resources.

Twenty-one voters supported the annual increase plan, and just one person voted for the one-time hike.

All the representatives were given the chance to address the government officials.

Eleven speakers suggested that differential pricing is "a must" and asked the government to put it into action "as soon as possible".

A differential pricing policy is considered a fairer system for the general public, representatives said yesterday.

Those who save water should pay less, while big consumers must pay at a higher rate.

"I don't think a price hike is a good idea because the government is targeting the wrong people to carry the burden," said Ren Lei, a representative and an editor from a medical magazine.

"I think differential pricing is a must. Those who already save water cannot save more after the hike," she told the hearing.

Li Lijie, a local political advisor, told METRO the proposals seemed to be trying to compensate the so-called "losses" from big water companies.

But representatives from the city's largest water companies, who were given more chance and more time to speak at the hearing, insisted they have been losing money. They also turned down the differential pricing proposal, saying they "lack the technology".

Beijing's total water consumption dropped from 3.89 billion to 3.51 billion cu m last year, authorities said yesterday. But the city's reservoirs still face an unprecedented risk after droughts in nine consecutive years.

The comments are important factors in the government's final decision and authorities are planning to invite representatives who support differential pricing to work out a better proposal, officials said yesterday. Shen confirmed to METRO that authorities have agreed to meet supporters of differential pricing at a later date.

Source: China Daily
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