Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Long lines as millions collect vouchers

GOTCHA The Ministry of the Interior said the voucher program had the added benefit of helping police catch 30 fugitives who tried to collect their vouchers yesterday

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Police officers monitor a distribution center for consumer vouchers in Kaohsiung yesterday.


Apart from minor incidents at some voucher collection centers, the distribution of consumer vouchers went smoothly yesterday, with almost 21 million people, or more than 91 percent of all eligible recipients, picking up their vouchers at 14,202 locations.

“This figure shows that there’s overwhelming public support for our consumer voucher program,” Minister of the Interior Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) told a news conference last night in Taipei. “I’d like to urge everyone to please spend extra money when using your vouchers to stimulate the economy.”

Liao said that while a few “errors” had been made by the distribution centers, “they will be covered by the consumer voucher distribution insurance.”

Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said the “errors” Liao referred to were incidents of staffers handing out extra vouchers to recipients.

“We don’t have the number yet, but there are only a few such cases,” Chien said.

Twenty-two consumer vouchers with a face value of NT$500 (US$14) each were reported missing at a distribution station in Guanmiao Township (關廟), Tainan County, after it closed at 5pm. Similar irregularities were reported in other townships.

“We’ll gather reports from townships about problems or irregularities that occurred during distribution and hold a meeting on Thursday to decide how we should deal with each individual case,” Chien said.

The Cabinet spent NT$85.7 billion on the voucher program, which it hopes will boost the slumping retail sector.

Chien touted the voucher program yesterday, saying it would not only benefit the economy, but had also helped police catch wanted criminals.

“So far, 30 people on the wanted list have been arrested as they went to pick up their vouchers,” Chien said.

In addition to Taiwanese nationals with their household registration in Taiwan, nearly 123,000 foreign residents married to Taiwanese citizens, or about 76.6 percent of all eligible foreign spouses, claimed their vouchers yesterday, according to the ministry’s tallies at press time.

While lines were long yesterday, separate counters were opened at collection centers for foreign residents.

Michael Turton, a university English instructor in Taichung, said it took his wife and daughter, both Taiwanese nationals, two hours to get their vouchers, while he did so in only two minutes.

“It was easy, fast and friendly service [for me],” Turton told the Taipei Times.

Those who have yet to collect their consumer vouchers can do so between Feb. 7 and April 30 at the post office listed on their voucher notice.

But despite the long lines of eager residents yesterday, not everyone appreciated the vouchers.

Former Democratic Progressive Party Taoyuan County councilor Wu Pao-yu (吳寶玉) tore up her vouchers in protest. Asked for comment, Taoyuan County officials said there was no law against destroying the vouchers.

Separately, a man surnamed Lee (李) was shown in a news clip on Formosa TV tearing up vouchers he just received.

“This is not a gift from the government, these are debts on our children and grandchildren,” he told reporters.

But Lee then said he had torn off less than 25 percent of the voucher on purpose.

“I’ve checked — you can still use the voucher if the damaged part is less than one-fourth of the voucher,” he said.

Inspired by Lee, an Internet user nicknamed “Lavendersea” called on members of the public upset about the vouchers to tear off a small part of their vouchers in protest.

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