The Austrian government introduced on Wednesday a series of new measures, including the absorption of profits and tighter reporting obligations for energy companies, amid increasing inflation.
On Wednesday, Austria’s conservative-Green government presented a package to help curb inflation after it reached a high of 9.8% in April.
To tackle high inflation, energy companies that do not reduce their prices will see their profits skimmed off earlier and to a greater extent.
“If energy suppliers do not immediately start to reduce prices, then we as the Republic will ask them to pay accordingly,” Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said after the Austrian Council of Ministers met, APA reported.
The tax, set to come into effect in early June, is justified according to the head of government, who cites a significant drop in wholesale electricity prices from over €500 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to below €150 over the past year while electricity bills for private consumers more than doubled – a trend that raises both inflation and tempers, “including that of Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler”, he said.
To increase transparency and oversight, another measure would have smart metres set as the default option for monthly energy bills, while the new obligations on energy suppliers to report to E-Control will further enhance the accuracy of the tariff calculator.
Food transparency report, additional budget for non-profit food drivers
After failing to find a consensus at the food summit on Monday, the government and industry leaders were later able to reach an agreement on measures.
Going forward, the government plans to publish a food transparency report that lists the purchase prices of specific food items within the food trade on a regular basis.
In addition, food retailers will be required to report the quantity of food they donate to charitable organisations, as well as the amount of food that is being wasted.
The governing parties have also agreed to provide additional budget funds in the amount of €10 million to support non-profit food drives to fight poverty.
But civil society and political parties are divided on the new package.
“This is a good day for the fight against poverty, but also against food waste in Austria and will help us to cushion inflation for those people who are most affected by it,” said Alexandra Gruber, managing director of the social association Wiener Tafel.
On the other hand, Labour Chamber President Renate Anderl believes the government has delayed efforts to combat inflation for too long. While greater transparency is necessary, it is not enough to lower prices by itself, she stressed.
On the side of the NGO Volkshilfe Austria, its director, Erich Fenninger, stated that the government’s measures are inadequate in dampening inflation and criticised the absence of a rent cap and the “toothless” efforts to combat high food prices.
Likewise, social democrat SPÖ spokesperson for environment matters Julia Herr criticised the government’s measures, calling them inadequate in lowering supermarket prices and combating food waste.
Herr, who believes the government is afraid to impose clear guidelines on big trade chains, previously introduced a motion obliging retailers to reduce food waste.
(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)
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