Sat, May 18, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Chen wants to eradicate poverty

BIG PLANS The president says he wants to reform social welfare into a system where poverty will be addressed before it becomes an entrenched part of Taiwanese society

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday clarified the future of Taiwan's social welfare system, saying the government will execute the reform of social welfare services in tandem with economic reform in order to effectively fulfill the public's demands.

"All of the government's economic policies should also incorporate the development of environmental protection and social welfare services," the president said in an address at the launching of the National Conference on Social Welfare Services Development (全國社會福利會議).

He added that the government should also aggressively develop domestic service industries, give consideration to disadvantaged minorities and create more opportunities for obtaining employment.

Chen said he hopes the ongoing government-restructuring plan can be completed as soon as possible so that the government can concentrate on social-welfare reform.

Chen said social welfare is critical to sustainable national development, social stability, harmony and internal unity. He added that the forging of an innovative, efficient social welfare service system is an important part of the government's new Six-Year National Development Plan.

"Social welfare services should be regarded as a kind of investment," Chen said. "Therefore, all measures to improve welfare should be seen as balancing the social justice and economic systems. Doing so will prevent problems from happening, so that we don't have to try and solve problems that have already become entrenched in our society.

"The reforms will tie the employment policy to the social welfare system -- turning welfare into aggressive assistance rather than passive relief."

Chen said he was pleased to witness the start of a national social welfare conference because it will chart a new course for Taiwan's social welfare services development in the 21st century.

Quoting British sociologist Anthony Giddens, Chen said a good government is one that can establish a social security system while at the same time upgrading its economic competitiveness.

In the face of the changing global situation, Chen said, Taiwan must undergo sweeping political, economic, public service and social welfare reforms and should use new thinking to promote social welfare services. "We should treat social welfare as a social investment," he stressed.

Speaking on the same occasion, Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) said the conference is aimed at formulating new social welfare policy initiatives, allocating funding for social welfare services, promoting the effective use of welfare resources and crafting a new social welfare services network.

"Therefore, I hope all civil organizations will assist the government in creating a better system that will make welfare institutions popular among all communities," Yu said.

More than 300 scholars, experts, elected representatives and relevant government officials are participating in the three-day conference to discuss a range of topics, including the feasibility of privatizing welfare institutions and of developing a community welfare system.

Some civil welfare organizations criticized Chen's remarks as being too vague to show a clear way forward.

"The President's speech is loaded with many beautiful adjectives, but it has no concrete details," said Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋) secretary general of the League of Welfare Organizations for the Disabled.

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