Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL:Taxpayers’ cash spent on centennial

Although the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government wowed the public with celebrations to commemorate the centennial of the Republic of China (ROC) on Monday, the climax of which regaled spectators with a magnificent fireworks display at Changhua’s Lukang Township (鹿港), in addition to a musical titled Dreamers tailor-made for the occasion, many wondered whethert the centennial project’s price tag of NT$3.3 billion (US$109 million) might have been better spent on things that would more directly benefit Taiwanese.

Amid speculation that the government’s centennial project was a brazen political stunt designed to reassert the connection between Taiwan and China, the huge budget for the celebration has also led to criticism that the Ma administration deliberately chose to prioritize superficiality and self-aggrandizement over substance and practicality.

It was only last month that Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said the nation’s precarious finances meant the government was unable to fulfill a pledge, made in 2007, to increase the monthly subsidy for elderly farmers to NT$10,000.

As a result, lawmakers from the KMT and Democratic Progressive Party continue to wrangle over by how much the current subsidy of NT$6,000 should be increased and whether richer farmers should receive the subsidy or not.

In view of the money spent on the centennial project, consider how easily the issue of the subsidy could have been resolved if only a small portion of that funding had been diverted to the nation’s elderly farmers.

It is also hard to forget frequent protestations from the Sports Affairs Council, Council of Cultural Affairs and other government agencies that tight budgets prohibit them from supporting the nation’s budding athletes and artists.

One marvels at the achievements of the many cultural and sports groups that have made international breakthroughs with little or no government support, but what about students who cannot afford school lunch programs and the underprivileged who are unable to pay their health insurance?

Imagine how a fraction of the funds lavished on the centennial project could have kept students well-fed and ensured the sick were taken care of. In addition, with such sensible spending of taxpayers’ money, the government would also have earned public respect and trust.

The truth is that if the government really wanted to help disadvantaged groups it could do so right now, as long as it focused on substance over showiness.

Earlier this month, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) outlined his vision for social justice in Taiwan as one of the goals for national development over the next decade.

If the Ma administration really wanted to improve social welfare policy, it would start by tackling the issues head-on rather than waxing lyrical about them as part of an extravagant scheme that will need 10 years before any results become evident.

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