Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Lien-fu (江連福) lashed out at President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday, saying that Chen had "wasted" too much money on charter flights for foreign visits.
Chiang told a press conference that the president had paid 14 visits to foreign countries over the past seven years. Chen flew on charter flights each time, he said.
"Chen has visited foreign countries 14 times. The journeys totaled 113 days. The money spent on all the charter flights amounts to some NT$600 million [US$18.3 million]," Chiang said.
PHOTO: LO PEI-DER, TAIPEI TIMES
"On average, he has spent NT$90 million each year on charter flights," Chiang said.
Showing statistics he had downloaded from the China Airlines Web site, Chiang said the money spent on the flights should also be scrutinized by the public.
"[Chen] achieved little during these visits. We should review where the people's money was spent," he said.
Chiang also questioned whether Chen's frequent visits to foreign countries over the past seven years have helped the nation secure diplomatic relations.
In response to Chiang's accusations, Deputy Minister of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) said the expenditures were all within the budgetary confines as approved by the legislature.
The government earmarks NT$160 million on average for high-ranking officials for foreign visits annually.
"We were never over budget," Yang said.
Phoebe Yeh (葉非比), vice director general of the ministry's Department of Information and Culture, said it is a "necessity" for high-level officials to visit foreign countries.
"President Chen has made visits to foreign countries twice a year on average, but Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has already visited foreign countries at least nine times this year," she said.
Yeh said high-level officials have always made such trips by renting charter planes, a policy implemented by the late premier Sun Yun-suan (
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