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News 30 Jan 13

Macedonians Protest Over Sky-High Bills

Macedonians angered by repeated hikes in their utility bills are to present a petition to parliament on Wednesday.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

"End the Price Hikes" the banner reads | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Protesters against high utility bills plan to take to the streets of Skopje on Wednesday before submitting a petition to parliament containing 13,000 signatures collected over recent months.

The law says civil initiatives filed to parliament must contain at least 10,000 signatures.

“This initiative is genuinely rooted in the people... and here is a chance for MPs to show they're listening,” Petrit Saracini, from the activist group "Aman", said on Tuesday.

The petition demands changes to the Energy Law that would effectively lower some utility bills.

One change proposes the reintroduction of so-called “off-peak” tariffs, which the government scrapped last year.

The tariff was especially useful to poorer people, allowing them to make use of given time frames for cheaper electricity.

“We are not asking much. We simply want the return of the allowances that people had for over 20 years, as well as for the right not to pay for what they do not use,” Saracini said.

The Aman initiative, which was formed last summer on social networks, has been staging regular weekly protests against recent hikes in utility bills.

The group estimates that electricity in Macedonia has become 56 per cent more expensive since 2008, and blames politicians for allowing repeated hikes.

Aman wants the state to adjust power price rises, taking into account low average monthly incomes of only 300 euro and a high unemployment rate of 30 per cent.

Last year, members of Aman found their rallies shadowed by mysterious parallel protests, which many suspected were government fronts.

The parallel protesters invariably blamed poor social conditions in Macedonia on the opposition Social Democrats, although they have not been in power since 2006.

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