Mon, Dec 19, 2005 - Page 3 News List

KMT to scrutinize any new arms plan

CONDITIONS KMT legislators said a decision to purchase the weapons would hinge on a number of factors, and that they wouldn't just `passively' accept a new proposal

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) arms procurement task force yesterday said that they will not passively accept the government's revised proposal of the arms procurement plan even if the budget is earmarked as a regular annual budget.

"Whether to buy the three items proposed by the administration has to take into consideration cross-strait relations, national security and the country's financial situation," said KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民), a member of the KMT panel studying the arms procurement plan.

While the Patriot anti-missile batteries "stand no chance" of obtaining their approval because they have been "vetoed" in the first national referendum held in tandem with last year's presidential election, Shuai said that his party might "conditionally support" the eight submarines and 12 P-3C maritime patrol aircraft in the procurement package, depending on their prices.

Another task-force member, KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中), said that he supports a proposal to push up military spending to 3 percent of GDP as long as it does not crowd out other government budgets such as social welfare.

He said that the government must not passively accept the US government's proposal of the items to be purchased nor would his party passively accept the government's amended procurement proposal.

"All three of the major items must be carefully re-examined because the Patriot missile batteries have already been vetoed in the referendum, the submarines are way too expensive and the maritime patrol aircraft are definitely outdated," he said.

Shuai and Ting made the remarks in response to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) pledge to boost the nation's defense spending to 3 percent of GDP by 2008. The president also requested that the pan-blue-dominated legislature clearly specify what they see as the ideal way of earmarking the arms procurement package in a bid to break the deadlock over the government's NT$480 billion (US$14.5 billion) proposal to buy the three defense items from the US.

The arms procurement plan has been blocked by the opposition alliance of the KMT and the People First Party (PFP) at the legislature's Procedure Committee 41 times since the beginning of the legislative term in February.

Due to the firm obstruction by the opposition parties, the long-stalled arms procurement plan may not stand a chance of passing the legislature during the current legislative session, scheduled to end on Jan. 18.

Meanwhile, cross-party negotiations will begin today to discuss the government's proposed annual budget for next year.

The PFP caucus yesterday vowed to make deep cuts to the budget, especially special budgets, and said that it would make public the details today.

As the KMT caucus has threatened to cut the government's proposed budget by 40 percent, PFP Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) said that his caucus needs to discuss the matter with its KMT counterpart.

Lin berated the administration for earmarking many special budgets, a move he said was a clear violation of the Budget Law (預算法) and an attempt to circumvent the Public Debt Law (公債法).

The Public Debt Law sets the ceiling for public debt at 40 percent. Official statistics show that the government's total outstanding public debt is expected to reach NT$3.94 trillion (US$101.47 billion) by the end of next year, accounting for 37.3 percent of average GNP for the previous three years. The quota for public debt is set at 15 percent of the government's annual budget.

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