Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Academics slam special budget for wastefulness

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Among the budgetary items, aside from the NT$37.2 billion earmarked to assist students facing financial difficulties, help them find employment and cultivate talent, the rest of the money would be spent on items involving capital expenditure.

Lin said that many capital expenditure items were supposed to be covered by the annual budget as they were “everyday items” such as enhancing the safety of the railway system, resolving leak problems caused by aging water pipelines, dredging irrigation system and so on.

Larger projects included an extension to Taipei City’s MRT Nangang line, the establishment of the Xinyi line, railway grade separation projects in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, repairing badly damaged bridges, rehabilitating hillsides as well as expanding sewage systems and storm water sewer systems.

Lin said that appropriating money from a special budget funded by loans to the government would cause many problems.

“[Construction projects] often cost more than what is actually required. Roads could be dug up again and again for no reason other than using the entire budget, a process during which some people will line their pockets. Oftentimes, these small and fragmentary construction projects damage the environment,” he said.

On top of that, “such squandering will saddle our descendents with debts,” he said.

Lin criticized the government for failing to use the opportunity to address the fundamental problems that have beset the country for a long time and instead proposing a budget that would waste money.

“The government should have included some visionary plans for the country’s development. It could just as well spend NT$500 billion or more in preparatory works for a long-term care system for senior citizens or subsidize people who would like to work in remote areas where there is a serious lack of teachers,” he said.

Wang To-far (王塗發), an adjunct professor of economics at National Taipei University, said he had found many examples of the government playing fast and loose with taxpayers’ money in the budget plan.

About 30 percent of the budget was written as subsidies for local governments, Wang said.

“Without each item of expenditure detailed in the plan, it seems to me that the money is to be used to guarantee the support of local political factions who can in turn help the KMT solicit votes in future elections,” he said.

A former legislator, Wang said that many of the spending items concerning flood prevention and land subsidence control overlapped with items that were included in the “eight-year, NT$116 billion flood prevention” plan implemented by the former Democratic Progressive Party administration, which was approved by the legislature in 2006 and will last until 2014.

Reserving some of the money for trips abroad also didn’t make sense, he said.

“Is there really a sense of urgency now that officials need to conduct overseas business trips — on borrowed money? Will the money spent overseas help the country’s economy?” Wang asked.

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