Tue, May 30, 2000 - Page 17 News List

`333' to be delayed by legislature

SOCIAL WELFARE Although the `333' pension program may not begin on July 1 as planned, the Interior Ministry says beneficiaries will be reimbursed once it starts

By Cybil Chou  /  STAFF REPORTER

Subsidies for senior citizens may be postponed from its scheduled July 1 launch date due to potential opposition in the Legislative Yuan, Minister of the Interior Chang Po-ya (張博雅) said yesterday.

"The postponement is because only NT$6.5 billion of the `secondary reserve' is left, and tapping into the fund would require further legal procedures since legislators still have mixed views on this issue," Chang told the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

Chang said that if the plan is delayed, the government would reimburse seniors once the program is started.

The "secondary reserve" (第二預備金) is a government reserve fund and the source of the senior citizens' subsidy.

Meanwhile, Chang said that the "333" measure would exclude senior citizens already receiving other government subsidies and should only be awarded based on need, in an effort to avoid abuse of the fund.

Chang said the plan should still be studied in more detail by the Cabinet.

The measure is part of the "333 family welfare program" (三三三安家福利專案) promised by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during his election campaign.

The two other measures in the program are free medical insurance for children under 3 and a 3 percent mortgage interest rate for young, first-time homebuyers.

Concerning the low interest rate loan proposal, Chang said the measure would be restricted to citizens between 20 and 40 years old. Within a year, an estimated 10,000 households would be able to benefit from the 3 percent interest rate for a period of seven years.

The measure is expected to be implemented on Jan. 1, Chang said.

The senior citizens' pension has been given priority by the new government and was set to take effect on July 1.

As a result, the plan will involve adjusting the central government budget for this fiscal year, which is to last until Dec. 31 this year.

The Ministry of Finance (財政部) has proposed three options to meet the financial demands of the plan.

These include adjusting the existing budget allocations for social welfare spending, drawing money from the government reserve fund -- the so-called "secondary reserve" -- and making a new budget proposal.

Drawing on the reserve fund has been considered by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS, 主計處) as the most feasible option.

Most legislators, however, are strongly against this solution, arguing that the proposal is unlawful and has been raised "for convenience's sake."

Legislators warned that the estimated NT$15.3 billion required for the subsidy annually may affect government funding available for all other welfare programs or economic development projects, which is limited.

"The distribution of social welfare subsidies should be evaluated based on the actual availability of funding," said KMT legislator Eric Chu (朱立倫).

"As the new government has already promised a larger-scale national annuity plan within four years, the distribution of subsidies for senior citizens now might affect the planned implementation of the regular distribution scheme for the elderly," KMT legislator Chen Hung-chi (陳鴻基) pointed out.

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