The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday exchanged barbs over the former’s plan to finance flood control projects with a special budget originally intended to stimulate domestic demand.
The Executive Yuan yesterday insisted on diverting part of the funds to flood prevention despite DPP lawmakers’ reservations about the legality of the budget appropriation.
The legislature last week approved the Cabinet’s budget request of NT$130 billion (US$4.3 billion) tagged for spurring economic expansion, NT$58.35 billion of which would be allocated to 25 local governments for construction projects.
Following the recent flooding in central and southern Taiwan caused by Tropical Storm Kalmaegi, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) decided in a Cabinet meeting on Monday night that NT$41.364 billion, or 70 percent of the NT$58.349 billion, would be used for projects related to flood prevention.
The plan drew criticism from the DPP caucus, which said the Executive Yuan should either refer a motion to the legislature to reconsider the passed budget or seek a declaration of a state of emergency from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) before appropriating the funds.
At a press meeting yesterday morning, Shih Su-mei (石素梅), head of the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, dismissed the DPP caucus’ suggestion. She cited Article 43 of the Disaster Prevention and Response Act (災害防救法), saying that the article entitled the government to make adjustments to the state budget in the event of a disaster.
The DPP caucus cited Article 62 of the Budget Law (預算法), which prevents the diversion of public funds among different governmental agencies and for different purposes.
But Shih said that Article 43 of the Disaster Prevention and Response Act stipulates that all levels of governments shall not be subject to Article 62 of the Budget Law if the budget initially allocated for disaster relief is not enough to handle a disaster.
Later yesterday, Shih tried to play down the controversy surrounding the issue, saying that money needed for flood prevention projects would first be drawn from the “eight-year, NT$116 billion flood prevention and water management plan.”
The legislature approved the NT$116 billion budget in 2006 for the government to launch an eight-year, three-stage program to help prevent flooding in high-risk areas that included 1,150km² in central and southern Taiwan.
The Water Resource Agency said the first stage of the plan would be 90 percent completed by the end of this year, the second stage — budgeted at NT$44.5 billion — was scheduled for completion between this year and 2010, and the third stage would take place between 2011 and 2013.
As the second stage of the eight-year plan has already begun, the government would complete the projects for the second stage ahead of schedule and would appropriate more money for flood prevention projects from the economic expansion plan when necessary, Shih said.
At a separate setting, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said that if the Cabinet wanted to adjust the special budget, it should ask the legislature to call a special session to reconsider the budget bill.
The DPP caucus would refer Cabinet officials to the Control Yuan for investigation and possible impeachment if the Cabinet insisted on going ahead with the plan, he said.