Tue, Sep 27, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers quiz MOFA official on controversial fund

BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) was questioned about a NT$7.5 billion (US$226 million) aid project in the Legislative Yuan yesterday, with even Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators saying they don't know how to defend this project.

The legislators went on the attack in a meeting of the Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee, where Kau was to report on strategies for Taiwan to participate in the UN. The legislators, however, focused on the fund, which is aimed at helping Taiwanese investing in Central America.

Opposition lawmakers condemned the proposed fund as "dollar diplomacy."

Some DPP legislators sided with their opposition colleagues, demanding that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) provide the public with a complete explanation of the project.

"Assisting businesses in overseas investment is not a new strategy given what the former government did," said DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who is also the director of DPP's Department of International Affairs.

Given the failure of similar projects in the past, the government has to clearly differentiate between its new project and older ones, and how the government plans to make it work, she said.

DPP Legislator Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), the chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, said that he only learned about the project from media reports. He criticized the ministry for not informing DPP legislators in advance.

Opposition lawmakers centered their criticism on whether the project should be put under legislative supervision.

According to the ministry, more than NT$5 billion for the project would come from the ministry's International Cooperation and Development Fund, and about NT$2.5 billion would come from the Executive Yuan's Development Fund.

While Vice Premier Wu Rong-i (吳榮義) said last week that the funding could be allocated by the government without getting approval legislative approval first, Kao said yesterday that his personal belief was that they did have the right to supervise usage of the fund.

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