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Price increases hit the people hard

Oct 13,2018
이미지뷰
[KIM HOE-RYONG]
CHOI JONG-GWON
The author is a national news reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

On Oct. 11, the boards of the stock market were filled with green signs. In one day, the Kospi fell by 99 points, or 4.4 percent. While the stock market reflected the declining economic reality, more uncomfortable news broke.

The local autonomous governments raised their public utility charges. Seoul raised the taxi base rate from 3,000 won ($2.65) to 4,000 won, and Daegu also raised it from 2,800 to 3,300 won. Gyeonggi is also considering an 8.5 percent increase to its current 3,000 won base rate. Most local governments, including Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon, South Gyeongsang, Jeju and North Chungcheong, have either completed or requested a contract to raise the taxi rate.

Bus fares, which are more affordable than taxis, are also rising. The local bus fare in the Gangwon cities of Chuncheon, Wonju, Gangneung and Samcheok went up by 7.7 percent from 1,300 won to 1,400 won. The fare for city buses with seats was increased by 11.1 percent from 1,800 won to 2,000 won. The seat-based bus fares in other cities and counties rose by 17.6 percent, from 1,700 won to 2,000 won.

It also costs more to use and dump water. Suwon in Gyeonggi raised the water charge by 3.4 percent on average this month to 470 won per ton. A household that uses 20 tons of water ever monthly will pay 800 won more every month. Six cities and counties, including Jeongju, Boeun and Yeongdong in North Chungcheong, are also planning a water bill hike.

Drivers should also be prepared to pay more. The toll for the privately financed highway between West Suwon and Uiwang and the expressway between Deoksong and Naegak will increase by 100 won this month for all vehicle types. The West Suwon and Uiwang highway is used by 140,000 cars on weekdays, mostly by commuters.

It is not right to suppress increases in public utility costs. There are inevitable factors, such as rising oil prices and wages. Nevertheless, I am not convinced of the timing and the scope of the latest increases. I can see the calculation of the politicians and administrators who suppressed prices for years. They raise them once their elections are over.

The inconsistent increase rate also makes me doubt the rationality of the decision-making process. Seoul is increasing the base taxi fare by 33 percent, Daegu by 17.8 percent and Incheon by 8.5 percent. There is no way of knowing what caused the difference. I’ve haven’t hear of any public hearings in the process of deciding the increase.

The economy is sluggish and working-class people are struggling. They are saddened by the news of price increases.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 12, Page 29