Insult was added to injury in the eyes of thousands of households after Edenor and Edesur utilities upped residential electricity bills by 26-32 percent in increases previously approved by ENRE regulatory agency and published in the Official Gazette.
Future power bills will average between 311 and 9,478 pesos a month, according to levels of consumption, with 70 percent of households paying under 866 pesos according to government estimates.
Next month electricity will be going up a further 14 percent with minor increases of four percent scheduled for May and August to total 55 percent, thus almost doubling current forecasts of 2019 inflation.
Gas cylinders have also gone up to a retail price of 267.70 pesos per canister (152 pesos for those on social plans).
Meanwhile, bus fares will rise from a minimum of 15 to 16.50 pesos with suburban train rides posting increases between 50 cents and 1.25 pesos while subway tokens will be up a peso to 16.50 pesos. Prepaid health care (already up 40.2 percent throughout 2018) will cost a further five percent this month.
At the very least these new increases in public services will slow down efforts to lower inflation from last year’s annual total of 47.6 percent.
As for the power cuts, the fiercest temperatures of a hot week soared on Monday, straining the grid and leaving 70,000 households without electricity by the end of the day. The black-outs continued throughout an unrelenting week, peaking on Tuesday with almost half a million people (477,000) affected although Tuesday night rainfall brought the figure down to 84,000.
Recoleta, San Telmo, Flores, Almagro and Boedo were the most affected areas within the Federal Capital with Greater Buenos Aires districts like San Miguel, San Fernando, Moreno, Hurlingham, Tres de Febrero and Tigre also badly hit. Apart from homes, traffic lights and subway lines (B and D) were also knocked out of action.
Later in the week ENRE was evaluating whether to fine the distributors, who blamed a fire in a Morón substation for the problems.
Almost needless to say, a week of power cuts with a steep rise in electricity billing on its final day added extra vigour to yesterday’s weekly noisy neighbourhood protests against public service increases.