Wed, Nov 12, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Yunlin County getting water budget not linked to Soong

FINANCING The Cabinet's spokesman said county officials were told by the Water Resources Agency last month that they would receive the money next year

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Executive Yuan yesterday dismissed the talk of a policy U-turn or that it had caved into pressure from People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) by deciding to earmark NT$70 million for Yunlin County's water conservation budget.

"Our policy on the matter has been consistent all along, that is, the budget will be earmarked in the 2004 annual budget." said Cabinet Spokesman Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).

Lin made the remark yesterday afternoon in response to comments by Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).

Yesterday morning Wang said he was told that the Cabinet had agreed to include the county's budget in this year's additional budget request.

"It seems Chairman Soong's kneeling has had a positive impact after all," Wang told reporters during the lunch break at the legislative complex, in reference to Soong getting down on his knees before Yunlin County Commissioner Chang Jung-wei (張榮味) on Sunday during a banquet with local politicians in Yunlin to apologize for the central government's rejection of the county's budget request.

When later approached by reporters to confirm his source, Wang, however, said that he had made a mistake.

Lin then called on Wang to offer an explanation to the public.

"I believe that he's such a smart person that he wouldn't have fallen into the snare of some sly politicians," Lin said.

Denying allegations that the Cabinet had had a change of heart over Yunlin County's request, Lin said it was Soong who should be eating his words.

"When someone lies about something, the person has to keep on lying to justify the previous lie," Lin said. "We didn't cut the NT$70 million budget because of Soong and we definitely didn't earmark the budget because he got down on his knees."

Besides, Lin added, Chang later clarified that Soong had misunderstood the the county's financial situation and that politics were not behind the Cabinet's decision to turn down the county's request.

Producing copies of official documents, Lin said that the Water Resources Agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs had notified the Yunlin County Government in writing on Oct. 6 that the county might get the NT$70 million budget request this year if the Cabinet had funds available.

On Oct. 24, the agency informed the county there was not sufficient funding this year but promised to earmark the money in next year's annual budget.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), meanwhile, said that it was obvious that Soong was barking up the wrong tree.

"As for the water conservation budget, Yunlin County will get more than other counties, not less," he told attendees at an international forum on regional irrigation projects yesterday morning at the Grand Hotel.

Also yesterday, Premier Yu Shyi-kun, who was visibly irked by Soong's stunt on Sunday, told reporters that the PFP leader should stop politicizing the matter.

"The public should focus on whether Soong had messed up the whole thing and got things all mixed up," Yu said after an interpellation session on the legislative floor.

"I'm highly suspicious of his underhand-smear stunt, which was aimed at garnering more votes in the presidential election," Yu said.

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