Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Carving out own national identityis essential to our survival, Yu says

By Fiona Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Premier Yu Shyi-kun said yesterday that carving out a separate identity for the nation is crucial to signify its independent status and parity with China.

Yu made the remarks in response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liao Guo-tong's (廖國棟) criticism that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has spent too much time on politics and has failed to do enough to rev up the sluggish economy while China is concentrating its efforts on economic development.

The Aboriginal lawmaker said he cannot understand why government officials, from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) on down, have frequently stirred up debate on such controversial issues as introducing a new constitution and changing the nation's official designation.

In reply, Yu said Liao's criticism is unfair. "It is inappropriate and unfair to compare Taiwan and China in such a simple and narrow context," he said.

As a matter of fact, Yu said, there are fierce internal power struggles in the Chinese leadership, pointing out that "these incidents have rarely been reported because China doesn't allow free speech nor a free press."

Yu further said the administration has indeed given top priority to boosting domestic economic development. Nevertheless, he said, some other issues are equally important and cannot be overlooked.

In his view, Yu said, promoting constitutional reform to craft a political framework that fits the nation's present realities is very important.

Meanwhile, Yu revealed that if a referendum were held on the polling day of the 2004 presidential election, it would cost the country between NT$370 million and NT$500 million.

"According to the Central Election Commission, the government would spend NT$370 million for a referendum on the polling day of next year's presidential election if voters cast their referendum votes in the same polling stations where they are going to cast their ballots for the presidential candidate.

"On the other hand, the government would have to pay NT$500 million to set up separate polling stations to carry out the referendum on the polling day," the premier said while undergoing a legislative interpellation session with People First Party Legislator Chin Huei-chu (秦慧珠) yesterday morning.

The estimated cost of holding a referendum on a date other than election day would be NT$530 million, Yu said.

Facing the opposition lawmaker's challenge about where the government would get the budget for the referendum, Yu promised that his Cabinet would never commit any illegal act to find the money.

The cost of running a referendum in addition to an election was not included as part of the government's budget proposals for the next fiscal year.

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