Sat, Jan 14, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Hsieh bets job on budget review

DISPUTE The premier said that although he respects the legislature's right to make cuts to the spending plan, he would demand a review of the security and welfare allocations


Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday put his job on the line in the widening dispute over the government budget, saying that he would take political responsibility if the legislature turns down a Cabinet request to reconsider cuts to the spending plan.

"We will decide when and how we will file the request to reconsider the annual budget when we receive the official paperwork from the legislature," Hsieh said.

The premier said that he respects lawmakers' decision to make cuts to the budget, but the Cabinet will definitely file a request to reconsider cuts to parts of the budget that affect national security and public welfare.

The Legislative Yuan on Thursday slashed NT$36.43 billion (US$1.13 billion), or 2.3 percent, from the central government's projected spending for this year, including NT$11.2 billion that had been allocated for the purchase of weapons systems from the US.

At the legislature's final meeting on the budget on Thursday, opposition lawmakers also managed to freeze NT$246 billion, or nearly two-thirds of the Executive Yuan's budget. The amount axed from the government budget is the largest since 1995, and the amount frozen is a record high.

"The large budget cuts are harmful to this country. It's just not right," he said.

By law, the premier is authorized to submit a review request to the president. If the president approves, the premier must submit the request to the Legislative Yuan within 10 days of receiving the official paperwork from the legislature. When the request has been submitted, the legislature must complete the review process within 15 days.

The pan-blue camp yesterday said Hsieh need not bother filing the review request, as opposition lawmakers would just boycott it anyway.

"What we did on Thursday was reasonable, because this government has wasted a lot of tax payers' money," Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Spokeswoman Cheng Li-wen (鄭麗文) said.

People First Party caucus whip Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) asked the premier not to "waste his time."

"We will not reconsider [the cuts.] So I would urge [Hsieh] not to file a review request, because it will not change anything," Hwang said.

As yesterday was the last day of the legislative session, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said that the legislature would not be able to review the budget until after the Lunar New Year.

Wang said that some changes may be added to the Organic Law of the Executive Yuan (行政院組織法) if the Cabinet does file the request for a budget review.

Angered by what he called excessive cuts to the budget by the KMT-led opposition, DPP Secretary-General Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) yesterday said that the DPP will throw its full support behind the Executive Yuan if it decides to ask for a reconsideration.

Cabinet Secretary-General and Spokesman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) said that filing the request would be the responsible thing to do.

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