afrol News, 7 January - In Cape Verde, the tariffs of water, electricity and public transports skyrocketed as the New Year set in. The most significant price hike (almost 40%) was noted in the transport sector, where trade unions described the situation as "inhumane". All these sectors have recently been privatised.
The prices for water, electricity and public transports paid by the Cape Verdean consumer all experienced a hike, beginning 1 January 2003. In the case of water for domestic consumption, the tariffs were raised from 190 to 200 Cape Verdean escudos, whereas in the case of low voltage electricity, the price was raised from 14 to 16 Cape Verdean escudos.
Nevertheless, the most significant price hike took place in the public transports sector, where the price increases where set at 37.5 percent. In this way, the average consumer, who until now paid about 1600 Cape Verdean escudos subscribing to transport services, will now have to set aside a total of 2.200 escudos for transport, if he or she does not decide to go by foot.
In addition to this price hike for collective transport, providers surprised the consumer with another novelty to their pricing system. From now on, students elder than 18 years - who until this moment benefited from a students' discount - will have to pay the ordinary price of 2,200 Cape Verdean escudos for their subscription.
In the light of these announcements, it did not take long before one could listen to the first voices of protest. Representatives of the trade unions already have criticised the new pricing policies by the ex-public utilities, in particular the new public transport tariffs. The Cape Verdean trade union describes the position of the public transport company as being "inhumane, arrogant and boastful."
Further, the unions already have called on the government to take those measures necessary in view to sensitise to the company of transports to fix the situation. After privatising most parastatal companies during the last five years, the government mostly has remained passive regarding the pricing policies of the new, private operators. Trade unions however complain that these private operators lack the necessary competition and government regulatory agencies to offer affordable prices to Cape Verdean consumers.
The privately owned public transport company, 'Moura Company', now practically has a monopoly on collective road transports in the Cape Verdean capital, Praia, after the old state-owned transport company - 'Transcor' - disappeared a few years ago.
Elektra SARL, the country's main electricity and water supplier, has a similar position of supply monopoly in Praia and on the archipelago's main islands; Sal, São Vicente and São Antão. Three years ago, 51 percent of Elektra was sold to a Portuguese consortium made up of Electricidade de Portugal and IPE-Águas de Portugal.
Water and electricity tariffs have steadily climbed since Elektra was popped up for privatisation in the late 1990s. Consumers unable to pay their water or electricity bills increasingly see their supplies cut off.