Electricity prices ‘could rise ten-fold’

Recent widespread privatisation of Burmese industry could see electricity prices soar by ten times, according to sources close to the electricity ministry.

The rumours carry particular resonance in impoverished Burma, where fuel price hikes sparked the September 2007 monk-led uprising.

Burma’s ruling junta has in recent months embarked on a widespread privatisation drive for much of the country’s industry. Much of the Rangoon electricity sector has now been sold to the Htoo Trading Company, which is owned by junta crony and business tycoon, Tay Za.

Information apparently leaked from Burma’s electricity ministry said that electricity rates in Rangoon could leap from 25 kyat (US$0.025) per unit to 250 kyat ($US0.25).

“The Htoo Trading company is to start collecting electricity charges in Rangoon and the rate is believed to be rising to about 250 kyat, which is ten times the usual rate,” said the source. “Apparently it is guaranteed that there will no longer be power shortages.”

Other sources have said however that it could be a four-fold increase; the same hike that triggered the 2007 uprising. No official announcement has been made by the electricity ministry.

Burma is plagued by power cuts in many of its urban areas, despite the ruling junta aggressively developing its energy sector, much of which is sold to neighbouring countries.

A Rangoon housewife told DVB that the price hike would be beyond the reach of many in the country. The average monthly wage in Burma is less than $US20.

“At the rate of 25 kyat per unit, our household is paying around 4000 kyat [$US4] per month. If the rate goes up four times, we will have to pay around 16,000 kyat [$US16],” she said.

She added that even the recent 20,000 kyat salary increase for civil servants would not adequately cover the costs of a hike.

News journals last month reported the sale to Htoo Trading of the electricity sector in Mandalay, Burma’s second city, although no mention was made of his Rangoon ventures.