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Sun, Feb 17, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Control Yuan says social welfare in Taiwan is lacking

By Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Concluding a one-year investigation into Taiwan's social-welfare system, the Control Yuan last month issued a report recommending major reforms be implemented.

In the report, Control Yuan members called for an enhanced government bureau to integrate and coordinate social-welfare resources and their allocation.

The report said the nation's social-welfare expenditure exceeded national defense spending for the first time ever last year, accounting for 18.08 percent of the central government's annual spending.

But the report, written by Control Yuan members Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄), Chao Chang-pin (趙昌平) and Leu Hsi-muh (呂溪木), said that: "The budget allocation and execution through 14 different government departments is too dispersed, and the lack of a comprehensive plan to develop social-welfare policies has resulted in unfairness in social-welfare allocations."

The report said that the Ministry of the Interior's Social Affairs Department -- the highest government bureau dealing with social-welfare issues -- "could not effectively coordinate with other ministries concerning social-welfare policies because it was too low in the hierarchy."

To rectify this shortcoming, the Control Yuan suggested that the social-welfare department be promoted to a higher level within the bureaucracy.

The report also criticized the current criteria governing who is eligible to receive social-relief funds as too strict, and that "comprehensively tackling poverty was thus impossible."

"Compared to other countries, families classified as low-income households in Taiwan represent just a tiny fraction of the nation. Just 0.7 percent of the population falls into this category, and a lot of genuinely poor families are excluded from benefitting from the system," the report said.

The report suggested the Executive Yuan relax the criteria so that more low-income families can receive help.

Control Yuan members also voiced their concerns about the financial state of the social-security system, which, at the end of 2000, was NT$18.887 billion in debt, primarily due to a lack of payments from the the Taipei and Kaohsiung city governments.

"This behavior is in violation of the law, and is a poor example for local governments to set," the report said. The authors urged the Executive Yuan to find solutions to the problem by forcing the provincial and local governments to reimburse the National Health Insurance Program.

Huang, Chao, and Leu started to examine Taiwan's social-welfare system in 2000, and completed their investigation within 14 months. They said they had conducted dozens of interviews covering 274 relevant officials and scholars in order to get what they termed the "big picture" of the present system.

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