Premier Sean Chen yesterday did not respond immediately to a proposal by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus calling for the discretionary funds available for all senior government officials to be halved to help the country ride out its current economic difficulties.
“It’s OK with me if the allowance is reduced by half. If not a penny of the allowance is available to me it is fine, but I have to consider how it would affect other people,” Chen said in response to the DPP proposal during a question-and-answer session in the legislature.
The DPP caucus proposed that the budget — which is allocated for various discretionary expenses of the president, the premier, ministers of the Cabinet and senior officials of the other four branches of the government — should be cut in half.
DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) told a press conference earlier yesterday that after lawmakers agreed to cut some of their subsides by themselves, the president, premier and other ministers should also reduce their subsidies in view of the nation’s serious financial situation.
He said that according to budgetary statements, the government earmarked NT$40 million (US$1.3 million) for the presidential state affairs fund per year, NT$10.2 million for the premier’s special allowances and NT$140.5 million to the ministers’ special allowances fund.
“Reform should come from the president, premier and ministers first,” Tsai added.
During the question-and-answer session on the legislative floor late yesterday, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) suggested to Chen that the Executive Yuan take the lead in response to the DPP’s call rather than waiting to see what the legislature decides to cut when it reviews the fiscal statement for next year.
“Would you like to act on your own initiative and reduce the budget for Executive Yuan officials, in a way that can show that the government does not feel immune to the suffering of the people amid economic and fiscal woes?” he said.
Chen did not give a positive response, saying it was “not a matter concerning myself,” but involving the Executive Yuan’s staff and other government officials.
The premier said that each penny of his allowance went to Executive Yuan staff and he did not use any of it for himself.
“There is always a need that Cabinet officials have some ways and means to give encouragement to staff,” he said.
His answer led Tsai Huang-liang to conclude that Chen was the kind of a politician that “does not have a political personality,” a character that Chen portrays himself as having.
“You could have said that you would like to cut the budget. None of your ministers would disagree. It is likely that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) will support us. Would you rather see the issue blow up in the legislature?” Tsai Huang-liang said.
During his time slot, Tsai Huang-liang repeatedly asked Chen about his view on the issue.
“Let me give you one more chance; would you like to have the budget cut?” he said.
However, Chen insisted on having a study of its impacts before making a decision.