Sun, Jan 05, 2003 - Page 3 News List

DPP seeks support for jobs bills

SPECIAL BUDGETS The ruling party is calling on legislators from across party lines to ensure that two bills designed to reduce unemployment are passed in short order

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

While the Executive Yuan failed in its bid to send two job-creation bill to second reading in the legislature on Thursday, DPP officials said yesterday that the government's plan to use special funding to pay for the two programs remains unchanged.

"I'm calling on lawmakers from across party lines to support the two special budget bills and pass them during the remaining two weeks of the legislative session," said Cabinet Secretary-General Liu Shih-fan (劉世芳).

Once the two bills are passed, Liu said, the Cabinet will send the budgets for the two one-year bills to the legislature for approval during the next legislative session.

The legislature is scheduled to recess on Jan. 14. Four legislative committees are scheduled to review the two bills tomorrow. If all goes according to the government's plan, the bills may proceed to the second and possibly third readings on Friday.

Responding to criticism that the Cabinet has jumped the gun by starting to arrange jobs for the unemployed, Liu said that the money the government will use to pay for the jobs is the NT$4 billion approved by the employment stability fund under the Council of Labor Affairs.

The Cabinet opened an unemployment hot line on Dec. 27 to allow people interested to register for the two projects. As of Jan. 1, some 400,000 people had called to sign up.

The Cabinet hopes some of them can start working before the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 1 this year.

The Executive Yuan on Dec. 18 approved the two projects, aiming to create a total of 115,000 jobs, drive the economic growth rate up to 3.52 percent this year, as well as lower the unemployment rate to below 4.5 percent.

The plan for public works, which will cost NT$50 billion, is estimated to create 40,000 jobs and push the economic growth rate up by 0.25 percent to 3.52 percent by the end of the year.

The plan for public service jobs, which will cost NT$20 billion, aims to create positions for 75,000 unskilled and unemployed workers aged between 35 and 65.

The program is expected to lower the jobless rate from above 5 percent to below 4.5 percent by the end of next year.

The Cabinet wants the measures paid for with special budgets, which would exempt it from legal limits on the amount of money the government can borrow.

Under public debt rules, the government can borrow up to 15 percent of its annual budget for various spending programs. Currently, the deficit makes up 14.8 percent of the budget.

Opposition parties, however, preferred to amend the public debt law to raise the debt limit.

DPP legislative leader Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said that the proposed special budgets are the only way to fund the two projects.

"The idea of additional funding doesn't work because it not only violates the budget law and public debt law but is also unconstitutional," he said.

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