Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Enough games: approve the budget

So the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus has said it is finally prepared to allow the contentious arms procurement package to move forward.

We've heard all this before.

The Ministry of National Defense originally sought funding for the purchase of eight diesel electric submarines, six Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile defense batteries, and 12 P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft in 2003.

Since then, it has reconfigured its request for a special budget many times. It has slashed the price of its request, dropped the PAC-3 batteries from the budget altogether and scaled back its ambitious plan to purchase submarines to a mere design study.

The special budget originally had a price tag of NT$610.8 billion (US$18.4 billion at current exchange rates), which was later slashed to NT$460 billion, then again to NT$280 billion.

Now, the ministry is requesting a paltry supplemental budget of NT$6.2 billion, apparently just to keep the programs alive after the White House has all but given up on Taiwan's defense.

So after all of these concessions from the Cabinet, a rational person would assume that the opposition parties had been mollified and would finally make a deal with the Cabinet. But this was not so.

Despite KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) promises, when he said in August that he backed the effort to procure several major weapons systems from the US, the KMT caucus still voted to keep the budget off the legislative agenda on Tuesday.

Of course, they tried to use the fiction that it was the People First Party (PFP), not the KMT, that had blocked the budget in the Procedure Committee. That would sound reasonable, except for the fact that it requires a majority vote to block an item from being put on the legislative agenda. The KMT voted against the budget plain and simple, so it is irrelevant who initiated the proposal to block it.

So despite all of the fine words, we learn that nothing has changed.

If anything, the KMT is even more dysfunctional than before, since its members are apparently at odds with their leader. And KMT legislators do not even have the courage to say how they are going to vote, and to explain their reasoning for doing so.

So why should we believe that Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) struck a deal with Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday? The KMT caucus' words mean nothing at this point.

The simple truth is that no one in the KMT is willing to stand up and defend his or her party's record on this issue, because it is indefensible. The KMT has undermined the nation's security, damaged Taiwan's relations with the US and turned the deliberative processes of the legislature into a charade.

Since 2003, rumors have been flying around daily about imminent deals being reached over the defense budget. None have turned out to be true.

According to yesterday's comments by Lee Jye, the KMT is supposedly set to approve the supplemental budget request in exchange for further ministry concessions yesterday.

So, enough excuses from the KMT. Pass the budget.

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