|ISTANBUL - With November's hike in natural gas prices, the cost for households has increased 72.7 percent, while costs for industry have risen 74.9 percent since the beginning of 2008.
The hike is most felt on cold winter days, as citizens in Istanbul complain of an unbearable burden on their family budget.
One cubic meter of natural gas was sold to households for 0.54 Turkish Liras in Dec. 2007, including taxes. But the price has reached 1.07 liras per cubic meter as of Nov. 2008, doubling bills. Today, 10 cubic meters of natural gas for households is sold for 107 liras, as opposed to 59 liras in Dec. 2007. During the same period, the salary of an average civil servant increased only 18.5 percent.
"Affording natural gas has always been hard but the bills were not as high as this last year," Selda Egüven, an accountant, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday. "I do not even want to imagine what kind of a bill we will have this month. It is unacceptable, but we have to keep the house warm, we have children," Egüven, 37, said. "We struggle to keep afloat it with our monthly income. We paid 120 liras last month for natural gas, hardly using the heater. But this month has been even colder."
"The apartment that we live in uses central heating, operating on natural gas. So it is not up to us to save or not. The system heats the building from morning to late night and we have to pay our share each month," said Azize Demirer, a high school teacher.
Running out of options
"We paid 180 liras last month, almost double what we paid last year. This forces us to consider other options such as moving to another apartment," Demirer, 44, said.
"Natural gas is not affordable for the average citizen, that is for sure," said Levent Çelikkan, a taxi driver. "The company sells gas expensively, because it buys expensive. The country does not produce its own energy, maybe that is why it is so hard to afford."
"Our last bill was 110 liras, while it was 70 liras on average in the same period last year," Çelikkan, 29, said. "Sometimes one may consider other options, such as using electricity-based tools to get warm, or even to sit at home covered with blankets."
"As far as I see, the government is first increasing gas prices to quite high rates and then after the public reacts, they talk about lowering prices. But there is still a net increase," said Nuri Sarıkaya, 59.
"Now there is a considerable increase in our bills compared to last year. And the increase in gas prices reflects on so many other things. Living in this country becomes harder day by day."
"You cannot find anyone in Turkey satisfied with these energy prices," said Halil Soylu, an engineer. "I have two children, aged eight and six. So I have to take care of my family and protect my children from the cold. Thus, we have to pay whatever the bill is. The hike in gas prices forces families to switch to other heating sources such as electricity or coal."
Turkey, a net energy importer, depends mainly on Russian and Iranian natural gas. Turkey has one of the highest tax rates on energy consumption with 19 percent, while this rate is 3.1 percent in France and 4.3 percent in Switzerland, according to the International Energy Agency data.
Daily News correspondent Ekrem Ekici contributed to this report.