Mon, Apr 28, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Amendment to welfare lottery statute under fire

SOCIAL PROGRESS? Social Welfare Alliance of Taiwan chairman Pai Hsiu-hsiung said the rules would classify promoting sports as a kind of social welfare project

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Legislators and social welfare advocates said yesterday that they opposed an amendment to the Statute Governing Public Welfare Lotteries (公益彩券發行條例) that classifies sports lotteries as public welfare lotteries, but dictates that 80 percent of profits from them be used to promote sports, and only 20 percent on social welfare programs.

The amendment will come under consideration at a meeting of the legislature’s Finance Committee today.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Chiech-ju (陳節如) told a press conference yesterday that she was not opposed to funding sports, but said that using a majority of the profits to that end contradicted the principle of a public welfare lottery.

Article 1 of the statute states that profits from public welfare lotteries must subsidize social welfare programs, she said.

Chen said that the statute required that 45 percent go to the National Pension Fund and 5 percent be used to fund the National Health Insurance system. The other 50 percent must be spent on welfare programs run by local governments.

“Between 2002 and 2007, the profits generated by public welfare lotteries dropped from NT$29.6 billion to NT$15.5 billion,” she said. “The government should budget more money to develop the nation’s sports industry. Why would it want to rely on a relatively unstable source of revenue to fund sports instead?”

Chen also said the government uses separate oversight mechanisms for public welfare lotteries and sports lotteries.

Public welfare lotteries are jointly supervised by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Interior. While the finance ministry appropriates the profits, the interior ministry ensures that local governments use the money to support social welfare programs.

Sports lotteries, on the other hand, will be issued by Taipei Fubon Bank and supervised by the Sports Affairs Council. Profits will be used to subsidize sports events and facilities.

To address the differences, the finance ministry has proposed including athletics experts and sports officials on the supervisory committee for public welfare lotteries.

Chen questioned whether this was a viable solution, adding that the two funds were distributed according to different standards.

The Social Welfare Alliance of Taiwan’s chairman, Pai Hsiu-hsiung (白秀雄), said that social welfare groups had suggested years ago that the government amend regulations for sports lotteries. Instead, the government chose to make minor changes to the existing statute on public welfare lotteries, adding a few lines to certain articles to regulate the use of profits from sports lotteries, Pai said.

“I wonder why the government is so determined to amend the regulations before the next administration takes office,” Pai said. “Why don’t we wait until May, when the new government can restart discussions between government officials and social welfare representatives?”

Pai said the amendment essentially presented sports development as a kind of social welfare program, adding that this would make the nation a laughing stock.

The finance ministry decided last year to launch sports lotteries starting on Friday.

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