Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet passes consumer voucher plan

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

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.

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