Fri, Aug 24, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Presidential Office defends aid policy

RESPONSIBILE CITIZEN David Lee said that the US$5 million loan to Honduras was the nation's answer to the UN call to increase foreign aid to fight global poverty

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TEGUCIGALPA

Government Information Office Minister Shieh Jhy-wey juggles rings in Honduras yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

Presidential Office spokesman David Lee (李南陽) yesterday defended President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) offer of a US$5 million loan to Honduras, saying Taiwan was not doling out money to secure diplomatic ties with the Central American nation.

"Please do not interpret this in a negative manner," Lee said. "The United Nations is aggressively pushing for the elimination of poverty and has set levels for aid to foreign countries. We are just doing our job as a responsible member of the global community."

Lee made the remarks in response to media inquiries about a political cartoon in yesterday's edition of La Prensa, a Honduran national daily. The cartoon showed Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales shaking hands with Chen, who is seen holding a bag of money behind his back.

Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), who is accompanying Chen Shui-bian on the trip, said that foreign aid as a percentage of the nation's GDP was low at 0.13 -- far less than the UN standard of 0.7 percent.

Chen Shui-bian on Wednesday witnessed the signing of a US$5 million low interest rate loan at Instituto Central Vicente Caceres (ICVC) in Tegucigalpa. He then attended the inauguration of a computer center at the institute.

ICVC had originally planned to name the center after the president, but Chen-Shui-bian said that it would be more meaningful to name it after Taiwan.

He said that the US$5 million loan would be used to purchase 30,000 computers and build 3,000 computer centers. The project aims to train 15,000 computer teachers and benefit 1 million children and youngsters.

Lee said that the two countries had also signed a memorandum of cooperation last year, with Taiwan agreeing to offer US$1 million each year for four years to help Honduras raise its computer penetration rate and close the digital divide.

With the computer center program, Zelaya said that his country, which has one of the region's lowest rates of computer ownership and computer use, is expected to surge ahead.

Zelaya said he had accomplished the task Chen Shui-bian had entrusted him with, which was finding two plots of land to be provided free of charge to two Taiwanese companies interested in investing in Honduras.

Zelaya said he hoped the president would keep his promise of persuading the two companies to invest.

During interviews with local and international media in the afternoon, Chen Shui-bian said that all the country's aid packages were transparent and open and he believed Honduras has a transparent system that would put the money to good use.

He said he was not worried that Costa Rica's switching recognition to China would cause a domino effect, because Taiwan's diplomatic friendships were built on shared values of freedom and democracy.

Earlier on Wednesday morning, the president was given an emblem of the capital city of Tegucigalpa by Mayor Ricardo Antonio Alvarez at the City Hall.

Chen Shui-bian said at the time he would build a skyscraper higher than Taipei 101 in Tegucigalpa. When questioned by reporters, Lee said Chen was joking.

Before walking to the parliament to deliver a speech, Chen Shui-bian paid his respects to the founding father of Honduras, Francisco Morazan, placing a memorial wreath at a square in front of City Hall. At parliament, Chen Shui-bian was presented with the Gran Cruz Extraordinaria con Placa de Oro, the highest medal conferred by the National Congress, by Congressional Speaker Roberto Micheletti Bain.

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