Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Academics slam special budget for wastefulness

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The government could find it difficult to achieve the goals it set out for the NT$500 billion (US$14.4 billion) special four-year budget, as the plan lacks long-term strategies to help the nation’s economy recover and thrive, analysts said.

Under the economic stimulus plan, which has yet to be discussed in the legislature, the government would spend NT$150.6 billion this year on top of the NT$1.8096 trillion in annual expenditure.

After reviewing the spending items in the budget request, Tu Jenn-hwa (杜震華), an associate professor of economics at National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of National Development, said he doubted the plan would boost the economy.

“[The proposal] is reminiscent of research by the World Bank on why its aid projects in developing countries did not achieve good results [because] recipients ate into funds that were supposed to be used in the projects. They did that for their personal use — and that’s aside from the corruption problem,” Tu said.

Tu said that many items in the special budget were not supposed to be included.

“The money earmarked for specific purpose should be spent on ‘newly created’ and ‘emergent’ projects to help drive the economy, projects that are not covered by the government’s annual budget,” he said.

Citing some funds to be used on hardware upgrades at government agencies, Tu said: “This is a waste of resources. Such inefficiency will counter the desired effects of the stimulus plan.”

“The government will not cut its annual budget for the next few years, even though some expenses are covered in the special budget. This will result in unnecessary spending,” he said.

Tu said the government should rewrite the budget to deliver on the promises made by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last Saturday that the government would help strengthen six emerging industries — tourism, medical care, biotechnology, green energy, culture and creativity, and quality agriculture.

“The special budget should be used efficiently to lay the foundations for the country’s long-term development,” Tu said. “This includes setting up state-of-the-art museums to attract tourists, or increasing computer usage in rural communities, where information is desperately needed to help farmers manage production and avoid surplus problems.”

The way the funds are to be allotted and a main approach for distributing the money — directly to township offices — make the economic stimulus plan look like pork-barrel projects, he said.

Given the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) majority in the legislature, the chances that the budget will be adopted are extremely high, Tu said, adding that the government should put monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure the money does not disappear as a result of corruption.

Lin Wan-i (林萬億), a professor of sociology at National Taiwan University, said the four-year budget showed that the government not only failed to recognize the problems facing the country and the changes taking place in the world, but that it was also confused about how to lead the country to a better future.

According to the budget statement, the NT$15.6 billion would be used in 64 major programs aimed at improving transportation networks, culture and quality of life, living environments, national competitiveness and help stabilize the job market and education system.

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