Wed, Aug 31, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Foreign assistance budget cut by almost 13 percent

FALLING SHORT:As a percentage of GDP the foreign aid budget is 0.087%, well short of the global average of 0.13% and nowhere near the Earth Summit’s goal of 0.7%

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The government reduced its budget earmarked for foreign assistance next year by NT$1.8 billion (US$62 million), in contrast to the amount of resources the country has spent on international humanitarian projects in the past.

According to a budget statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NT$12.6 billion was budgeted for foreign aid, down from NT$14.4 billion this year, or a decrease of 12.94 percent.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has repeatedly vowed to work toward the goal agreed to by industrialized countries at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, which is also known as the Earth Summit, where nations set a goal of donating 0.7 percent of their GDP in foreign aid — a level Taiwan has never achieved.

The NT$12.6 billion accounts for 0.087 percent of the -Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics’ recent projection that the country’s GDP will be NT$14.48 trillion, and is much lower than the global average of 0.13 percent to 0.14 percent.

The budget statement showed that a total of NT$26.7 billion was budgeted for the ministry, including a budget of NT$1.66 billion, or 6.21 percent, for “secret” diplomacy.

Asked for comment, -Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said he was concerned that the downward trend in the foreign assistance budget would deal a blow to the country’s reputation in terms of providing international humanitarian aid.

The trend is contrary to Ma’s pledge that he would make the country a leading provider of international humanitarian aid and stand as a clear contrast to China, which has actually become a major aid provider, Tsai said.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said the budget cut for foreign affairs “would have a limited effect” in practice because the amount of money the country actually spent on providing foreign aid last year was NT$12.7 billion.

Lin praised the low portion of the budget set aside for “secret” diplomacy, saying it was a sign of the government’s determination to move to a more transparent budget process.

Tsai disagreed, saying the cut in the ministry’s budget and foreign aid was a reflection of Ma’s inaction on advancing the country’s diplomatic interests.

The budget statement showed that the ministry slashed its budget for the country’s representative office in Tripoli, the country’s only overseas mission in North Africa, from NT$25 million this year to NT$924,000 next year, with no budget for personnel.

Lin and Tsai both warned against the ministry possible planning to close the office, saying that Taiwan must not withdraw from North African despite political turmoil in Libya.

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