Tue, Mar 05, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Interior minister promises new proposals

PERSUASION At a legislative meeting, Yu Cheng-hsien vowed to fight for senior citizen pensions and to look into whether the president should chair a political party


Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) promised to quickly submit proposals on a number of controversial topics yesterday, including the implementation of the National Pension Program and the question of whether the nation's president should lead a political party while in office.

Another major issue discussed in the first meeting of the legislature's Home and Nation Committee was amending the Law on Local Government Systems, chiefly in relation to whether Taichung City should join Taipei City and Kaohsiung City as a special municipality directly administered by the Cabinet.

The meeting was the minister's first opportunity to put forth the ministry's policies to the legislature after taking up the post early last month. The meeting attracted 51 legislators, many more than usual. In the past, the committee has been notorious for falling short of a quorum.

The implementation of senior-citizen subsidies dominated the meeting. In response to legislators' questions, Yu said that the ministry would submit a position paper to persuade legislators to release the budget for the subsidies within one month.

The legislature has frozen the budget for the program, asserting that all senior citizens should qualify for the subsidies. The ministry's position is that the measure should exclude senior citizens who already receive government subsidies and that they should only be awarded according to need.

The annual budget for the program is estimated at NT$16 billion. The plan is supposed to provide each eligible senior with a NT$3,000 monthly stipend.

Legislators also questioned the minister's attitude on the issue of turning Taichung City into a municipality directly administered by the Cabinet along the lines of Taipei and Kaohsiung.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun ordered the interior ministry to evaluate the possibility early last month. Yu also promised to help Taichung become a special municipality to Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) of Taichung City last week.

The promise attracted the attention of legislators.

Taichung City has fought hard for the upgrade, but its population of 980,000 falls far below the required population level.

In the ministry's proposed amendment to the Law on Local Government Systems, the qualification for cities directly administered by the Cabinet is decreased from a population of 1,250,000 to 1,000,000. The proposal failed to pass in the legislature's last session.

DPP legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) questioned whether the amendment was specifically aimed to assist Taichung City. The minister denied that it was.

Yu emphasized that Taichung City is just a part of the ministry's overall revision of Taiwan's local government system. Yu said that the ministry would submit a proposal on the issue within three months.

The appropriateness of the nation's president serving as a political party chairman was another issue on the minds of legislators in yesterday's meeting.

KMT legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) sought a regulation banning the country's president from serving as a party chairman.

Yu said that the ministry needed to evaluate the issue and its side effects further by holding a public hearing.

The minister promised that a hearing on the subject would be held within a month.

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