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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 18:41 GMT
Brazil to end power rationing
Rio de Janeiro skyline
The rationing has badly hit Brazil's economy
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By Tom Gibb
Brazil correspondent

Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has said electricity rationing, which has put a break on Latin America's largest economy since last June, will end on 1 March.

Some experts say the government should wait until the end of the rainy season in April to make sure the reservoirs do fill up

The shortage was caused by low rainfall in a country which relies on hydroelectric plants for 90% of its power.

Heavy rains in the last few months have restocked the reservoirs to above minimum levels.

But some say lifting the rationing is premature.

Red tape

The end of rationing will be extremely welcome to most Brazilians, who were forced to make savings or faced having their electricity supply cut.

People have been switching to low-energy light bulbs, turning off freezers and hot-water heaters, and avoiding energy-consuming new appliances.

The government blamed the shortage on lack of rain, but many people blamed bad planning and red tape which they say made private investment almost impossible.

Politically, the rationing has hurt the government's image in the year leading up to crucial presidential elections.

Economically, it was one of several factors which cut Brazil's projected growth rate for last year by half.

Risky resumption

President Cardoso now says he is confident the conditions exist to end rationing, and not impose additional sacrifices on the population.

Officials say it is extremely unlikely that the rationing will be re-imposed during the next two years.

But some experts involved in drawing up the rationing plan disagree, saying the government should wait until the end of the rainy season in April to make sure the reservoirs do fill up.

Otherwise, they say, more expensive power from thermoelectric plants will be needed, and consumers will have to foot the bill.

See also:

03 Dec 01 | Business
Brazil fails to meet energy targets
03 Sep 01 | Americas
Brazil calls for more energy cuts
05 Jun 01 | Americas
Brazil eases power rationing
05 Jun 01 | Americas
Power rationing hits Brazilians
01 Jun 01 | Americas
Brazil power rationing starts
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Brazil
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