BISHKEK -- The Kyrgyz opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party is calling on citizens to protest against government plans to increase public utility prices, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.
Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebaev told RFE/RL that the increase in charges for electricity and heating will lead to "widescale poverty" among the population and mainly hurt state employees and those who live in multistory buildings.
Tekebaev said President Kurmanbek Bakiev first proposed raising energy rates when he was prime minister in 2002.
Bishkek Mayor Nariman Tyleev also expressed concern about the utility-price increases and said they will lead to food prices going up by as much as 15 percent.
Tyleev added that many civil servants and pensioners will fall under the official poverty line because of the increases.
He said he supports an increase in the prices of utilities -- which are currently very low -- but believes the increases should be introduced gradually.
The government has announced a 2010-12 plan under which electricity prices will double and natural gas charges for heating will go up by some 500 percent.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov said that if utility prices are not increased it will lead to "an industrial catastrophe."
He said the current charges do not cover the cost of the energy and as a result infrastructure cannot be modernized.
Usenov said the increase in utility prices will cause food prices to rise by 3-5 percent.