Fri, Dec 23, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Lawmakers slam MOFA's US$7 million aid donation

DISPROPORTIONATE The government's humanitarian aid of US$7 million to the US after Hurricane Katrina had legislators in an uproar yesterday in a committee meeting

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmakers across party lines yesterday criticized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' donation of US$7 million in relief aid to the US after Hurricane Katrina, saying the generous amount was not proportionate with Taiwan's current financial situation.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said that the generous sum stood in stark contrast with the US$200,000 the US had offered the nation in disaster relief after the 7.6 magnitude earthquake in 1999.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) yesterday attended a meeting of the Legislature's Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee to testify about the ministry's donation to the US in September.

"The US is a big country, but Taiwan is so small. In terms of the size of the two countries, do you think our donation is a fair reciprocation?" Huang asked Kau in the committee meeting.

The government's recent humanitarian assistance following a series of world disasters include US$50 million to tsunami-stricken South Asian countries, a donation to the US' reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and aid to earthquake-hit Pakistan.

Huang asked whether the government's kind humanitarian offers have brought any substantive improvements in Taiwan's diplomatic status.

"Pakistan has been one of China's closest allies. They even rejected our dispatch of humanitarian personnel to their country," Huang said of the cool reception Taiwan's humanitarian offer got from Pakistan.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) said that the budget under the DPP administration has been in deficit for five years.

He said that the government is spending the budget to sponsor foreign aid, which has crowded out normal domestic spending.

Kau yesterday said that the donation to the US' Katrina relief effort was actually only a small sum compared to what other countries had offered.

"The US is a very close ally of Taiwan. We are offering assistance based on our mutual friendship. And actually the security commitment the US has been making to Taiwan over the past decades is something that can't be measured in monetary terms," Kau said.

"In the long-run, I believe our assistance will have a positive effect and improve our international standing," the vice minister said.

DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) yesterday also questioned the fairness of the ministry's funding for the nation's non-governmental organizations.

She said the ministry has given NT$30 million (US$902,000) a year to the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD), ROC Chapter, which is chaired by KMT heavyweight and former deputy speaker of the Legislature Yao Eng-chi (饒穎奇).

However, most of the NGOs received a lot less than that, with some getting as little as NT$30,000 a year.

Hsiao said that, in the ministry's report on NGOs' performance, the WLFD had not given enough detailed information on how it used the money.

The WLFD, ROC Chapter was a branch of the US-led WLFD, a UN-registered NGO during the Cold War era.

Kau said that the WLFD was an asset in the Cold War but now its function has faded. He agreed that the ministry had to adjust its funding for the WLFD and distribute money more evenly among other NGOs in the country.

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