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Moldovan Economy Minister Defends Higher Energy Bills

Valeriu Lazar (file photo)

Valeriu Lazar (file photo)

CHISINAU -- Moldovan Economy Minister Valeriu Lazar has stressed the necessity of electricity and heating price hikes and vowed that the government would protect those most affected, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Lazar spoke to RFE/RL today, one day after Moldovan energy company ANRE announced that consumers will have to pay 15 percent more for gas, 20 percent more for electricity, and 30 percent more for heating starting next month.

Lazar said the prices were increased because the price of the Russian natural gas that Moldova receives rose at the beginning of the year.

Moldova receives 100 percent of its natural gas and approximately 65 percent of its electricity from Russia.

Lazar said his government has also pledged to the International Monetary Fund that it would increase the prices for utilities to bring them closer to market prices for energy. The IMF is currently discussing whether to grant large loans to Moldova to help it cope with shortfalls largely caused by the worldwide economic crisis.

Lazar also promised that his government will "try to curb prices for food and other basic goods" to make up for the higher energy bills.

Moldova is among Europe's poorest countries.