Thu, Nov 20, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers look to pass voucher laws

STIMULATING DEBATE Caucus whip William Lai said the government was trying to implement the DPP’s cash subsidy proposal, but was issuing vouchers instead of cash

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The legislature may approve a Cabinet proposal to distribute consumer vouchers by Friday of next week at the earliest, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus said yesterday.

“If everything goes smoothly and the bill wins the support of the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] caucus, we would pass the special legislation by Nov. 28 at the earliest,” KMT caucus secretary-general Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) said at a press conference.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) announced on Tuesday the government’s plan to issue consumer vouchers valued at NT$3,600 to every citizen. By taking out loans equaling NT$82.9 billion (US$2.5 billion), the government is hoping to boost the nation’s economic growth next year by 0.64 percent.

Under the plan, by Lunar New Year on Jan. 24, Taiwanese nationals can claim the vouchers at their household registration offices by showing documents proving citizenship.

The expiration date of the vouchers will be Dec. 31 next year, while the face value of each voucher note has yet to be determined.

The vouchers can be used at any store with an official business registration, meaning vendors at night markets or traditional markets will not be able to accept the vouchers.

Liu said that the program does not exclude the wealthy because it is designed to “stimulate consumption to get the economy going” and “not to provide social assistance.”

In a bid to legitimize the policy, the Cabinet has to write a special piece of legislation for the program before requesting a special budget, as borrowing the funds conflicts with Article 23 of the Budget Law (預算法), which states that funds raised by loans must be used in capital investments, and Article 4 of the Public Debt Act (公共債務法), which places a debt ceiling on loans.

The bill will then have to be submitted to the legislature’s Procedure Committee before it can be put to preliminary review or to second and third reading.

The bill can skip a preliminary review if the legislature’s plenary session agrees.

Chang said the premier would be invited to report the details of the policy to the legislature after the special legislation is approved, while legislative committees would hold joint meetings to review the special budget requests intended for the vouchers.

If everything goes well, the legislature may approve the requests by as early as Dec. 12, Chang said.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) urged the Cabinet to address only the voucher policy in its special budget requests and to keep the focus of the requests simple.

Wang’s remarks came in response to the premier’s plan to also take out loans to increase investment in public works and to boost industries.

Wang urged both the KMT and the DPP to deal with the Cabinet’s special legislation and budget requests rationally.

In response, DPP caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) told a press conference that the government would spend between NT$8 billion and NT$10 billion printing the vouchers and sending them to recipients by mail.

If the government offered cash rather than vouchers, each person could receive NT$4,000 instead of just NT$3,600.

Lai said the government was trying to implement the DPP’s cash subsidy proposal, but to save face it was issuing vouchers rather than cash.

DPP Legislator Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) said that offering cash would reduce the cost of the program, boost monetary circulation and benefit vendors excluded by the voucher plan.

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