The Chinese government decided on Wednesday to take further measures to stabilize market prices and increase the severity of punishments for those guilty of driving up prices through hoarding or cheating.
The government urged all local authorities to strengthen price management and supervision and to take the necessary steps to keep the market prices in order and safeguard consumers' interests at a State Council executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao.
"Prices of gasoline, natural gas and electricity shall not be adjusted in the near future, and charges for gas, water, heating and public transport in cities shall not be raised," a statement released from the meeting said.
"Fees for medical treatment shall be stabilized. Prices of major fertilizers, such as carbamide and phosphate fertilizer shall be kept steady too and can only be raised really because of cost increase and after being approved by the regulator," it said.
The government announced it would temporarily intervene in the setting of prices of daily necessities in line with the Price Law.
Wen urged relevant government departments to tighten supervision over price hikes of major goods and services and to monitor price-cost relations closely to help enterprises fix prices more reasonably.
"Companies who collude in jacking up prices, stoke up fears for price hikes by hoarding or spreading phony information, or raise prices before they are approved and registered officially will face stern penalties," the statement said.
They also decided at the meeting to make amendments to the Regulation on Administrative Punishment for Price Violations to allow more stringent penalties and define procedures of price adjustment applications.
"No malpractice that violates the laws and regulations and disturbs the market order will escape punishment," the release said.
Local governments are also required to conduct special checks over the grain, oil, meat and liquefied gas prices before the Spring Festival, China's traditional lunar new year, to stabilize prices and ensure market supply.
China's inflation rate hit a new 11-year high of 6.9 percent last November, prompting the government to take a series of measures, including subsidizing pig breeders and oil makers, to fight price hikes.
(Xinhua News Agency January 10, 2008)