30 May 2008

Residents leaving Northern Marianas because of soaring cost of power

1:26 pm on 30 May 2008

Consumers and businesses in the Northern Marianas are struggling to cope with the impact of power price rises and the hike in the minimum wage.

In May the Commonwealth Utilities Corp, or CUC, hiked power rates and the minimum wage rose another 50 cents to $4.05.

Power customers now pay a total of 37.3 cents per kWh for the first 500 kWh of usage, compared to just 17.6 cents per kWh for the first 1,000 kWh previously.

Our correspondent Mark Rabago says with the increasing cost of fuel and basic goods, people are leaving the CNMI to live elsewhere.

"Our power here is like a 100-percent increase in the past month. You can imagine. So the businesses community here although they are worried about the minimum wage, they can't do anything about it cos its mandated by law, but the biggest problem now here is the power situation."

A legal counsel for lawmaker Jose Bermudes says the CUC was wrong to put into effect the new rates on May 3 in the middle of a billing cycle, and it may be illegal.