Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Premier urges special legislative session to pass bills

STAFF WRITER , WITH CNA

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung puts his arm around Vice Premier Chiou I-jen at a press conference yesterday as he downplayed rumors that Chiou is more powerful. Chang said they had worked together for a long time.

PHOTO: LIAO CHEN-HUEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) said yesterday that he felt heartache over the legislature's freezing of a large chunk of the government's current budget and hopes a special legislative session can be held to pass urgent budget bills.

Speaking at the weekly Cabinet meeting, Chang said he was grateful the legislature approved the government's annual budget plan last Friday before going into summer recess.

He said the 197-day delay in the passage of the bill had hurt the economy, hindering the launch of NT$70.6 billion (US$2.1 billion) of new public investment and infrastructure projects.

The delay could result in a slowdown of the economic growth of an estimated 0.25 to 0.3 percentage points, he said.

Worse still, Chang said, as much as NT$62 billion of the budget remains frozen.

The frozen amount cannot be used pending further review by the legislature on a case-by-case basis.

The Budget Law (預算法) doesn't offer any basis to justify a partial budget freeze, Chang said.

Describing the budget freeze as a by-product of partisan strife, Chang said the move had threatened the public's well-being.

Chang called for the holding of an extra legislative session as soon as possible to screen a number of critical bills, including one concerning the expansion of public infrastructure projects worth NT$77.4 billion, which form part of an ambitious five-year NT$500 billion development plan.

Another budget bill that needs to be addressed concerns the operations of state-owned enterprises and several government-run development funds totaling NT$4.2 trillion, Chang said.

Noting that the total of the long-stalled budget bills far exceeds the current fiscal year budget, Chang said their passage was critical to economic development.

During the Cabinet meeting, Chang directed Vice Premier Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) to form a supraministerial task force to deal with issues related to the NT$62 billion in frozen budgets to ensure the government can continue to operate smoothly.

The legislature-approved budget bill shows the government's revenues for this year are set at NT$1.48 trillion, while expenditure was projected at NT$1.62 trillion.

Meanwhile, Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said the caucus would draft a motion urging the legislature to open a special session on July 1.

"We hope the special legislative session can start on July 1 and last for 10 to 14 days to address a large number of critical bills," Ker said.

Ker said the DPP caucus would like the special session to deliberate amendments to eliminate the decades-old income tax exemption privileges for military personnel and elementary and junior-high school teachers, as well as amendments to the farmers stipend statute to raise the monthly allowances for elderly farmers from NT$5,000 to NT$6,000.

Since the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has already proposed that a special session be held on July 9 to address an amendment package to the law governing the Central Election Commission, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) is expected to call cross-party negotiations to hammer out the timing and the agenda for the proposed session, analysts said.

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