Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Shyu Jong-shyoung (徐中雄) yesterday sniped at the Executive Yuan over the lack of action on an amendment that would redefine poverty, a promise made by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) during his presidential campaign.
Approached for comment at the legislature, Shyu, who had previously proposed a similar amendment to the Social Assistance Act (社會救助法), said the Executive Yuan under Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) should prioritize bills that concern the public’s everyday life rather than stalling the amendment. Shyu also complained about insufficient funding to cover social assistance for the poor.
Shyu said related bills had failed to clear the legislature when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power, adding that if the KMT could not turn things around and make a difference, “why do we need the KMT in office?”
Shyu’s criticism came after the Executive Yuan failed to make any progress in passing the government’s own version of the amendment since the Ministry of the Interior submitted a proposal to the Executive Yuan in January.
In April, the Cabinet called a meeting to discuss the matter.
During his election campaign in 2008, Ma pledged to redraw the poverty line to help families in need. Wu, a KMT member, proposed a similar bill during his time as a legislator.
Ministry statistics showed that a total of 300,000 people would benefit from the proposed amendment if the line were redrawn. The government would need to pay NT$3 billion (US$93.9 million) to cover stipends.
The ministry requested about NT$985.4 million in its budget for social stipends for the next fiscal year, about 20 percent less than this year’s budget.
In accordance with the act, low-income households refer to those whose living expense per person is below 60 percent of the nation’s expenditure per capita.
DPP Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英) said that by this definition, low-income families only account for 1 percent of the nation’s population.
“The number is lower than that in other countries. We must redefine poverty,” she said.
DPP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如) of the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee accused Wu of forgetting the poor and only having the rich in mind after becoming the premier.
The Control Yuan in January censured the Executive Yuan over the matter, saying the definition did not reflect reality and may be in violation of the Constitution, which obliges the government to give priority to requesting budget for social subsidies.
In response to the legislators’ criticism, the Executive Yuan said it was not stalling the proposals, adding that the matter was complicated and needed more deliberation.
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