President-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that his administration would present a revised budget proposal to the legislature and seek to have it passed to facilitate new government policies by July.
Although the government will not be able to change the amount allocated in the general budget, Ma said his administration would make changes in how the money would be spent in carrying out his election platform.
Ma made the remarks yesterday while addressing a forum in Taipei on political and economic developments following the presidential election. At the forum, held by Macquarie Capital Security Ltd, Ma promised to follow through on his economic platform, including the i-Taiwan 12 construction projects. He also promised to raise economic growth to 6 percent.
Ma pledged to improve the investment environment for foreign companies by normalizing cross-strait economic relations and allowing cross-strait direct flights.
“What the government should do is provide you with a very convenient investment environment,” Ma said.
He also promised to revise the cap on investment in China, but said that his seeking closer ties with Beijing did not constitute a pro-China stance.
Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) chairman-designate Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) said separately yesterday the government would allow weekend cross-strait charter flights starting on July 4 and would bring the first group of Chinese tourists over on the first flights.
Chiang told a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Standing Committee meeting yesterday that the SEF would negotiate the issues of cross-strait flights and opening up to tourists with China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.
Other matters, including the number of flights and detailed flight schedules, safety measures and emergency response mechanisms will also be negotiated, Chiang said.
KMT Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) said the party would spare no effort to help Ma carry out his campaign platform.
Meanwhile, Ma’s campaign promise of allowing between 3,000 and 10,000 Chinese tourists to enter Taiwan per day was challenged at a meeting of the legislative Transportation Committee yesterday, with lawmakers asking officials if the nation was ready to handle such numbers.
Currently, only 1,000 Chinese tourists are permitted to enter the country daily. Tourists must arrive via a third country or hold a second passport from any other country.
Ma has said earlier that he would remove these restrictions on July 4.
KMT Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) questioned whether there were adequate hotel facilities to accommodate an influx of Chinese visitors.
Ho Nuan-hsuen (何煖軒), vice minister of Transportation and Communications, said the nation could handle 3,000 Chinese tourists a day, but might have problems if 10,000 Chinese tourists were allowed to enter.
Tourism Bureau Director-General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍) said Taiwan had the capacity to accommodate 3,000 tourists from China on a daily basis.
There are around 80,000 hotel rooms nationwide, she said, adding that the average occupancy rate was 67 percent last year.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) raised concerns about the potential consequences of the visit by Chinese property tycoons this week, which has been the focus of intense media coverage.
“The visit will only serve to inflate land prices,” she said. “Prices of hotel rooms will rise accordingly as hoteliers expect more Chinese tourists to come.”
“People will not be able to afford domestic travel anymore,” Yeh said.
Yeh also said that the increase of Chinese tourists would probably crowd out local tourists and tourists from other countries.
In response, Lai said the bureau would meet with travel service operators and discuss the possibility of having Chinese tourists visit countryside destinations on weekdays and cities on weekends to divide the crowds.
Other KMT lawmakers said Chinese tourists had been complaining about the quality of travel services and shopping in Taiwan.
DPP legislators Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and Lai Ching-te (賴清德) questioned whether the ministry had coordinated with Department of Health officials to prevent diseases being imported from China. They said China had a large number of people suffering from tuberculosis who, if allowed to visit, would pose a public health threat.
In its briefing to the committee, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) said the government must decide which organization should be in charge of reviewing visa applications for Chinese tourists.
The Tourism Bureau entrusts the Travel Agents Association (旅行商業同業公會全國聯合會) with arranging the travel affairs of Chinese tourists, while the National Immigration Agency (NIA) reviews visa applications from foreigners.
The MOI also said that the NIA would be short of immigration officers and resources to inspect incoming visitors from China at airports and seaports.
Since 2002, more than 280,000 Chinese tourists have visited Taiwan. The MOI has extradited 94 Chinese tourists who did not return to China before their visas expired.
Twenty-five Chinese tourists are missing.
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