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Apparent surge in electricity bills sparks complaints

Many in society have expressed concerns about their increasing power bills even though measures were introduced from April to June to curb electricity tariffs during the country’s lockdown.
Vientiane residents claim they have received bills higher than last month, quite the opposite to the announced measures.
A resident of Hadxaykhao village in Sisattanak district, Vientiane, who did not wish to be named, told Vientiane Times on Thursday that many people were complaining, including on social media.
 His electricity bill more than tripled in April compared to the previous month, going from 600,000 kip to 1,910,000 kip.
There are four air conditioners in his house, but they usually only use two and pay approximately 500,000 or 600,000 kip per month. However, this month he was shocked because they only used two air conditioners as before.
Nevertheless, there are many reasons why electricity bills increase with hotter weather the prime culprit causing consumers to use more energy by turning on air conditioners and fans at home. Moreover, April was the beginning of the nationwide lockdown when the government asked people to work from home. Consequently, some increase in electricity consumption could not be avoided.
The move came as Laos confirmed its first case of the coronavirus at the end of March. Deputy Prime Minister Dr Sonexay Siphandone issued a statement in early April at a National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control meeting discussing the impact of the virus on business.
Dr Sonexay recommended that ministries and concerned sectors consider reducing the price of electricity, water, internet, and other services to help businesses and households to reduce their living costs. But the electricity bills sent to many household users for April have not reduced but gone up.
A dramatic drop in traffic on Vientiane’s roads could also be observed at the beginning of the lockdown. According to order No. 06, dated March 29, the government initially directed people to stay at home from April 1-19 to contain the spread of the deadly virus and to remain safe.
After that, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith announced a 14-day extension of the lockdown followed by another from May 3 to May 17. This has now been extended from May 17 to June 1 with the easing of some measures.

By Khonesavanh Latsaphao
(Latest Update May 22, 2020)

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