The Cabinet yesterday approved the consumer voucher scheme proposed by the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD), but made a few changes to make using the vouchers more convenient.
At a press conference following the Cabinet's weekly meeting, CEPD Chairman Chen Tian-jy (陳添枝) said the government had decided to allow people to use the vouchers to purchase any goods or to exchange them for services, such as massages, in a bid to facilitate their use.
The Cabinet previously said the vouchers could only be used at stores with an official business registration, which excluded businesses such as vendors at night markets or traditional markets from the scheme.
Given the changes, people will now be able to spend the vouchers almost anywhere, including KTVs, movie theaters and even for taxi fare, but they cannot be used at hospitals.
Chen said those without an official business registration could also accept the vouchers, but they would not be allowed to exchange the vouchers for cash.
In other words, those without an official business registration must use their vouchers to purchase something elsewhere.
Every citizen will receive six vouchers with a face value of NT$500 each and three other vouchers valued at NT$200 each, Chen said.
The expiration date of the vouchers was also brought forward from Dec. 31 to Sept. 30 next year, Chen said, adding that the government hoped the vouchers would have a positive effect on domestic consumption.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) announced the Cabinet's plan to issue NT$3,600 in consumer vouchers to every citizen on Tuesday.
By taking out loans equaling NT$82.9 billion (US$2.5 billion), the government is hoping to boost economic growth by 0.64 percent next year.
Chen said the Ministry of the Interior was still deliberating over whether foreign spouses who have not yet received their ID cards would also be entitled to the vouchers.
He said people would be banned from buying the vouchers or auctioning their vouchers online.
Chen said that the Cabinet previously considered implementing a similar voucher scheme in September, but the government did not finalize the decision back then because of concerns over the cost of printing the vouchers.
The voucher scheme has been adopted now because economic conditions had worsened, Chen said.
“If use of the vouchers can help restore confidence, the whole economy will be revived, just like lighting a fire,” Chen said. “We do not plan to issue any more vouchers. I believe that would be unnecessary.”
Meanwhile, Cabinet Spokeswoman Vanessa Shih (史亞平) dismissed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus' criticism that the Cabinet was trying to force the legislature to pass the voucher scheme.
She also defended the government's plan to take out loans to increase investment in public construction projects and a package to boost industry.
“What the government proposed was a large scheme in the first place,” she said.
Shih said the voucher scheme would create a short-term economic effect, while the government's plan to increase investment in public works would produce a long-term effect.
Shih said the government was concerned that it would miss the window of opportunity available to implement the policy if the related proposals were stalled in the legislature.
In a bid to legitimize the policies, 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 also with Article 4 of the Public Debt Act (公共債務法) which places a ceiling on government debt.
A bill will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan after the Cabinet officially approves it in an extraordinary meeting on Monday.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus deputy secretary-general Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) said he supported the government's plan to push the policies through the legislature together, saying that implementing the policies separately would not achieve the desired economic effect.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) urged the public not to interpret the policy as a “one-off” deal, but as a new scheme.
Wang said he was not sure if people would receive the vouchers by Lunar New Year as planned because pushing the policies through together would be “complicated.”
But the speaker vowed to do his best to handle the government's request.
In response, the DPP legislative caucus yesterday said that its members were against the voucher scheme.
“This is wrong. It looks like a ‘red envelope’for the people, but it will actually end up causing a bigger hole in terms of debt for the next generation,” caucus whip William Lai (賴清德) told a press conference at the party's legislative caucus office yesterday morning.
He said the DPP would support proposals or plans that would help re-invigorate the economy or help people find jobs, but the voucher plan would create more debt for our children.
Lai, meanwhile, citing his own calculations, said that the KMT government had increased debt by approximately NT$4.04 billion a day since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May.
“I seem to remember that ‘reconstructing Taiwan without increasing debt’ was one of his [Ma's] campaign policies,” Lai said.
In a separate setting, DPP Taipei City Councilor Lee Chien-chang (李建昌) yesterday suggested Taipei City Government co-ordinate its household registry system with the police and schools to facilitate the issuance of the vouchers to Taipei residents.
The city government should ask municipal schools to provide classrooms for household registration offices as locations for residents to claim their vouchers, Lee said.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the city government's civil affairs officials would discuss possible ways of issuing the vouchers with the central government and seek to give the vouchers to residents as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, social advocates yesterday accused the government of discrimination by alienating tax-paying immigrants.
“It is absolutely unfair that these immigrants have paid tax, yet are exempt from social welfare just because they do not have a national identification card,” said Wu Shu-chuan (吳淑娟), general secretary of Taiwan International Family Association (TIFA) at a protest in front of the Executive Yuan.
Even criminals and tycoons, she said, were entitled to the vouchers, but over 280,000 hardworking tax-paying foreign nationals legally married to Taiwanese are ostracized from the program.
TIFA president Chang Yu-hua (張育華) said the unequal treatment is a form of discrimination.
“Why is it that Ma Ying-jeou's daughters living in the US are eligible to receive vouchers when they don't even pay taxes here in Taiwan?” she said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MO YAN-CHIH, JENNY W. HSU AND JIMMY CHUANG
SAFETY RISK: The government is working to categorize countries based on their COVID-19 cases and prevention efforts, which would determine quarantine periods The government plans to rank countries based on their COVID-19 risks to determine how to treat tourists and other travelers from those nations once Taiwan reopens its borders, but it is still working out the categories, a top health official told lawmakers yesterday. “We would divide countries around the world into several categories. One category would comprise those countries with very few confirmed COVID-19 cases, such as New Zealand and Palau. Travelers from the countries in this category would only need to practice self-health management,” Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told a Legislative Yuan seminar hosted by
CASH BOOST: Foreign spouses with residency permits are also eligible for the coupons, which can be bought at post offices or linked to digital payment options Stimulus coupons for Taiwanese and foreign spouses with residency permits can be ordered starting on July 1 and can be used from July 15 to Dec. 31, the Executive Yuan said yesterday. Aimed at boosting domestic spending, the coupons worth NT$3,000 (US$100.04) are to cost NT$1,000. “For our consumers, this is a very good deal as they get three times as much value for their money,” Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a news conference in Taipei. While the coupons are to have a wide range of uses, including at department stores, restaurants, book stores, night markets, beauty and hair salons, hotels, and to
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
RELATIONSHIP ‘TERMINATED’: US Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the president’s action was ‘an act of extraordinary senselessness,’ a tone Chinese media echoed US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that Washington would withdraw funding from the WHO, end Hong Kong’s special trade status and suspend visas of Chinese graduate students suspected of conducting research on behalf of their government. Trump said in a White House announcement that Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the organization to mislead the public about the outbreak. “We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act,” he said. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be