Sun, Sep 25, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blues see red over foreign-aid plan, demand report

BY KO SHU-LING  /  STAFF REPORTER

The pan-blue camp yesterday criticized President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) pledge to offer NT$7.5 billion (roughly US$250 million) per year in foreign aid to Taiwan's diplomatic allies, vowing to demand a report from the government agencies concerned.

"The government owes the public an explanation of why they are doling out taxpayers' money elsewhere, rather than spending it on our people and fixing our own problems," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip Pan Wei-kang (潘維剛) said.

While the money would come from the state coffers, Pan said that its allocation should be put under legislative supervision to prevent misappropriation.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than NT$5 billion of the fund would come from the International Cooperation and Development Fund under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while about NT$2.5 billion would be taken from the Executive Yuan's Development Fund.

Pan also threatened to cut the annual budget of the Presidential Office if Chen insists on the plan.

Echoing Pan's opinion, KMT Legislator Fei Hung-tai (費鴻泰), a member of the legislature's Financial Affairs Committee, said that any money from the state coffers is subject to legislative supervision.

He also demanded a special report on the matter from the government agencies concerned when legislative committees begin meeting next week.

People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) yesterday called on the Chen administration to refrain from biting off more than it can chew, saying that the government should spend the money on improving the livelihood of the nation's underprivileged, such as the Aborigines.

Responding to the pan-blue alliance's criticism, Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday said that the money proposed by the president will come from a cooperation fund set up to encourage the industrial sector to invest in diplomatic allies in Central and Southern America.

Government investments would be contingent on the amount that industry contributes. The government would sign an agreement with the recipient country to ensure the safety of Taiwanese investments in that country, she said.

While many of the nation's diplomatic allies in Central and Southern America have signed free trade agreements (FTAs) with each other, Lu said that it is not easy for Taiwan to sign such an agreement with every country.

"We can take advantage of our diplomatic allies as `express highways' to drive northward to the US and Canada," she said.

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) caucus whip David Huang (黃適卓) dismissed the KMT's call to spend the money on domestic affairs as a political plot designed to bilk the electorate's votes and mere talk aimed at serving the interest of the Chinese government.

"If they genuinely care about the nation's plight, why don't they support the eight-year, NT$80 billion flood-control bill?" he asked.

As the nation received international aid from more advanced countries when it was in trouble, Huang said that it is time for Taiwan to give back to the world from what it has acquired in the past, he said.

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