President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said on Thursday that Taiwan’s recent donation of US$3 million in aid to help the Gambia cope with a food crisis is a humanitarian action that should not be considered a waste of money.
“This is the kind of money that ought to be spent,” Ma said on a state visit to the West African country.
The remarks came in response to criticism from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which accused the Ma administration of applying double standards on foreign aid.
Ma in the past often accused the former DPP administration of “checkbook diplomacy” and competing with Beijing for diplomatic allies, but now that he is in office, he is doing exactly the same thing, DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said.
Ma should apologize for applying double standards on the matter, Pan added.
Responding to criticism by the DPP that Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts remain “costly,” despite his “flexible” approach, Ma said there was “a very big difference” between current and past policies.
He said his administration has three main principles regarding foreign aid, namely that the money should be spent decently, lawfully and efficiently.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said the Gambia was suffering from a serious food shortage due to drought in the Sahel region of West Africa.
Because Taiwan cooperates with the nation in the field of agricultural production, the government decided to draw US$3 million from the cooperation fund to help tackle the problem, Yang said.
Another Taiwanese ally in West Africa, Burkina Faso, is facing a similar problem and the situation has worsened due to the recent influx of 40,000 refugees from Mali, he said, adding that was why Ma had promised an additional 1 million euros (US$1.3 million) in aid to Burkina Faso during his visit there earlier this week.
Yang said although Taiwan cannot resolve the problems facing the two African nations, its aid shows the concern and friendship it has for its long-time allies.
Additional reporting by Chiu Yen-ling