Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Lawmakers pan high-speed rail money dispute

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lawmakers serving on the legislature’s Transportation Committee lashed out yesterday at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) for its failure to ask Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC) to return NT$300 million (US$9 million) it owes the ministry.

The default came to light as the committee reviewed the budget for the China Aviation Development Foundation (CADF), the Duen Mu Foundation and China Engineering Consultants Inc for the next fiscal year.

All three semi-state organizations are under the supervision of the MOTC.

According to CADF regulations, the current MOTC minister holds its chairmanship.

CADF invested NT$4.5 billion in THSRC in 2005 as part of the former government’s bailout plan for the financially strapped company.

The NT$300 million was equal to the dividends per share that THSRC owed in 2007. MOTC Vice Minister Oliver Yu (游芳來) said the ministry had asked THSRC to pay the interest three times, but the company has not paid, he said.

“The ministry can only keep asking THSRC to pay the money it owes,” Yu said.

Some lawmakers were dissatisfied with CADF’s budget plan. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said CADF listed approximately NT$1.6 billion in revenues in the budget plan for the last fiscal year, but only listed NT$100 million for this fiscal year.

While it only listed NT$300 million in operational costs for the last fiscal year, it listed NT$4.7 billion in operational costs for this fiscal year, Lee said.

Yu said that the budget was listed this way because of China Airlines’ (CAL) operational losses last year, adding that the airline’s losses were caused by high oil prices.

As the largest shareholder in the airline, CADF had to list the losses in its budget plan, Yu said.

Yu said that the investment in THSRC was made annually from September 2005 until September last year. The interest rate set for THSRC in the first two years was 9 percent, whereas the interest set for the last two years was 0 percent.

Lee, however, said that the oil price hike was not the only reason for CAL’s loss.

He said the ministry did not look into some of its past problematic aircraft purchases.

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