The Cabinet yesterday approved a proposal that it said would reduce the interest burden on loans belonging to 370,000 of the nation’s farming households by around NT$700 million (US$23 million).
Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) made the announcement at a press conference following the Cabinet’s weekly meeting.
Chen said the reduced interest burden would take effect immediately.
The government launched a special agricultural loan program in 1973 to provide financial aid to farmers and fishermen.
Under the program, farmers could take out loans with lower interest rates for 13 purposes, which include fees for their children’s education; household affairs; and costs related to growing crops.
The council said that about 580,000 farmers and fishermen had taken out a total of NT$300.5 billion in loans from the program as at the end of last year, while current loans to 200,000 farmers and fishermen amounted to around NT$109.2 billion.
Under the proposal, the amount available would be increased from NT$35 billion to NT$50 billion, and the loan interest rate would be cut by 0.5 percent.
Chen said that the cut in the interest rate would decrease the burden on those 200,000 households by NT$580 million.
The government would also provide farmers and fishermen with another NT$15.5 billion in loans for household consumption and another NT$80 million in low interest loans for them to borrow to repay their debts, which would save them a further NT$110 million in interest payments, Chen said.
Chen also said the government would adopt necessary mechanisms and make adjustments between supply and demand to stabilize the prices of agricultural products during the Lunar New Year.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet yesterday approved an amendment to the Special Education Act (特殊教育法) that calls for extending the system to higher education and other departments of adult education, requiring institutions to install facilities to meet the needs of students with special needs.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said at the meeting that the revisions would help improve the quality of special education and ensure the education rights of disadvantaged and gifted students, a Government Information Office press statement said.
The amendment also expanded the scope of students who qualify for special education, incorporating people with emotional and behavioral problems, while also broadening the definition of gifted students.
On financial support, the Ministry of Education was authorized by the amendment to grant deductions on tuition to households with preschool children enrolling in privately owned kindergartens and day-care centers that charge high fees.
Minister Without Portfolio Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗) said that the revisions in the Act reflected the elevation of living standards in the country as the regulations governing the special education system need keep pace with the changing environment as well as global norms.