Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Pan-blue budget cuts aim to punish DPP blunders

ELMINATING FUNDSThe pan-blue camp says its severe cuts of one government budget after another are not final, and can be reversed if the DPP accepts its demands

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

With the Dec. 3 local elections drawing near, the pan-blue dominated legislature has been slashing one government budget after another, in a bid to draw attention to what the pan-blue camp says are government inadequacies.

On Nov. 16, the legislature's Home and Nations Committee and the Budget and Final Accounts Committee cut next year's budget for the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) by NT$438 million (US$13 million) -- with only NT$340 million in personnel allocations surviving the joint committee's pruning.

Pan-blue committee members justified the budget cuts by saying that the MAC had been dragging its heels in promoting cross-strait exchanges and had deliberately complicated the visa application process for Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

The KMT invited Chen to a meeting next month, which would have made him the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Taiwan. But the MAC rejected Chen's application to visit because Beijing had refused to communicate with Taiwan's government about the visit.

Not yet final

Claiming that the budget cuts are not yet final, pan-blue lawmakers set five conditions for returning the council's budget to its previous level. They are the implementation of direct cross-strait transport links; passage of the organic law for the Executive Yuan; direct flight services between Hong Kong and Macau and Taipei's Sunghsan Airport, Kaohsiung's Hsiaokang International Airport and Tai-chung's Chingchuankang Airport; charter flight services over the Lunar New Year holiday; and making it easier for Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan.

Earlier, on Nov. 14, more than NT$600 million of the Government Information Office's (GIO) annual budget was frozen by the legislature's Education and Culture Committee and the Budget and Final Accounts Committee until the National Communications Committee (NCC) is established.

In addition to freezing much of the GIO's budget, the pan-blue dominated committees cut NT$288,000 from GIO Minister Pasuya Yao's (姚文智) salary, deeming that amount to consist of "irregularities," as well as NT$636,000 in the GIO's "special expenses." The pan-blue's move came after the GIO fined a television station, TVBS, for being 100 percent foreign-funded. Pan-blue critics claimed that the GIO's action was revenge for the channel's exposure of government corruption.

On Nov. 9, the legislature's National Defense Committee and the Budget and Final Accounts Committee lopped off NT$10.9 billion from the budget to buy Patriot missile batteries.

On Nov. 7, the two committees jointly cut from the Ministry of National Defense's budget a proposed NT$272.62 million outlay in preparation for the arms procurement package.

Pan-blue committee members argued that the budget is not necessary because it's not yet certain if the arms package will pass. The package seeks to buy three Patriot missile batteries, eight diesel-electric submarines and 12 P-3C Orion aircraft, and has been blocked in committee by the pan-blues.

Not done yet

Now the pan-blues are proposing still more cuts. In light of the dubious role former deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男) played in the high-profile Kaohsiung Rapid Trasit Corp (KRTC) scandal, pan-blue lawmakers proposed to cut the Presidential Office's budget for next year by about NT$100 million, including NT$50 million in President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) national affairs expenditures.

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