Yangon residents take to streets to protest government’s electricity rate hike

Protest against electricity hike in Pazundaung township yesterday via Facebook
Protest against electricity hike in Pazundaung township yesterday via Facebook

Yangon residents have been protesting the first electricity rate hike in five years by the union government with protests yesterday and today. 

A hundred protestors carrying green signs and loudspeakers marched in Dala township today to the local township office with a hundred more protesting in Taukkyan township, according to Myanmar Now. Their signs carried messages arguing that the people weren’t consulted about the price hike and that the decision was authoritarian in nature. 

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Protestors also marched in Pazundaung and Thaketa townships yesterday waving the Myanmar flag and carrying red signs that read “the people are against the meter rate hike and collection,” according to RFA’s Burmese language service. 

“We are peaceful gathering for those who have to suffer difficulties from the increased electricity rates. We submitted the relevant paperwork to authorities,” U Soe Min Than, the protest organizer in Pazundaung, told the outlet yesterday. 

After parliament approved the proposal by the energy ministry to increase rates in April, the increase has been met with resistance from Yangon residents, many of whom had expressed their dissatisfaction online until yesterday when residents took to the streets to express their opposition to the move. 

“The electricity wasn’t consistent before and now you want to increase prices?” a disgruntled netizen asked. 

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The announcement came shortly after energy suppliers resumed 24/7 electricity following businesses and residents having to suffer from scheduled blackouts throughout April due to low water levels during the historically hot month, which this year saw temperatures break 60-year-old heat records in Myanmar. 

Under the new rates, those who consume up to 100 units of electricity will face an increase of up to 72% on their electricity bills. (For example, if you paid 3,500 kyats for 100 units, you will now pay 6,050 kyats). Businesses will bear the brunt of the meter hike as they consume a large chunk of the electricity supply. 

However, the move comes after years of Myanmar’s government supplying electricity to the public at a loss. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the union government suffered a loss of K507 billion and the deficit rose to K630 billion in 2018-19, according to data from the Ministry of Planning and Finance.

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