Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Legislature passes special SARS budget

WAR CHEST After much debate, the Legislative Yuan gave the government NT$50 billion to deal with the crisis, but plans to keep a close eye on how the money is spent

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Legislative Yuan approved a special NT$50 billion (US$1.45 billion) budget yesterday without any funding being axed, injecting financial support into the country's anti-SARS campaign.

The move marked a first as the budget cleared the legislative floor in only eight days.

"A legislative committee will be set up by ruling and opposition lawmakers to supervise the Executive Yuan's use of the money to ensure the budget is used effectively," Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said after the plan was passed.

A total of NT$29.8 billion, or 60 percent of the budget, is earmarked for SARS-prevention efforts and related medical expenses. The spending covers establishing a nationwide SARS warning system, setting up specialized hospitals for SARS treatment and financial compensation for SARS-hit hospitals and personnel.

An amount of NT$20.2 billion will be used to combat the economic impact of the outbreak. The financial aid will be used to help the SARS-hit industries of aviation, transportation, tourism, catering and entertainment and will be given to hospitals to help them treat the epidemic.

Lawmakers said that the government should consider giving companies tax reductions, relief loans or electricity subsidies.

During inter-party negotiations, legislators moved to change a proposed NT$20 million fund for cracking down on Chinese stowaways and designated the money for epidemic prevention.

The plan was the result of a special budget submitted by the Executive Yuan on May 15 after having received earlier approval in a special regulation against SARS on May 2.

The regulation permitted the Executive Yuan to draw up a NT$43 billion budget falling outside of the Public Debt Law, while the remaining NT$7 billion would have to come from existing sources.

How the money will be spent

* The Legislative Yuan approved a special NT$50 billion budget.

* NT$29.8 billion is earmarked for SARS-prevention efforts and related medical expenses.

* NT$20.2 billion will be used to combat the economic impact of the outbreak.

* NT$2 billion is for the National Science Council to conduct medical research into the disease.

* The Council of Labor Affairs will receive NT$390 million to help subsidize the wages of employees who can't work because of compulsory home quarantine.


The legislature finalized the bill's third reading after inter-party negotiations yesterday morning.

Within the budget, NT$10.5 billion is reserved for the Ministry of Transportation and Communications for subsidizing aviation fuel and airlines' purchase of epidemic-prevention materials.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs will receive NT$9.3 billion for bailouts to small and medium-sized enterprises having trouble paying employee salaries and coping with operating expenses.

The Ministry of Education will receive NT$700 million to improve its online teaching and distance-learning programs, educating and consulting with students in home quarantine and for carrying out campus disinfection.

The budget contains NT$2 billion for the National Science Council to conduct medical research into the disease, including the development of vaccines and other medicine.

Around NT$1.5 billion will be distributed to the Ministry of the Interior, which is in charge of electronically monitoring home quarantines via videophones.

The Council of Labor Affairs will receive NT$390 million for wage subsidies for employees in compulsory home quarantine.

The Government Information Service will also get NT$65 million for SARS-related propaganda.

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