Fri, Apr 02, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet fails bid to pass new definition for poverty levels

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Cabinet yesterday failed in a meeting to approve a proposal that would have qualified an additional 97,000 households, or 240,000 people, for monthly subsistence allowances and would have subsidized health insurance premiums, national pension premiums and tuition fees.

Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) requested further discussions on the amendment to the Social Assistance Act (社會救助法) and that it be brought back to the Cabinet for approval in two weeks, Executive Yuan Spokesman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) told a press conference following the weekly Cabinet meeting.

The amendment proposed by the Ministry of the Interior would alter the definition of the poverty level, which would now include an additional 19,929 families, or 52,532 people, in the category of low-income persons.

It also suggested that near-poor families be included in a project under which the government would subsidize health insurance premiums, national pension premiums and tuition fees.

The project, which covers middle to low-income households, would be extended to about 77,000 households, or 188,000 people. Under the proposal, the ministry estimated that the central government and local governments would need to disburse an additional NT$3.33 billion (US$ 104 million) to cover the expansion of subsidies.

Asked why the draft failed to clear the meeting, Minister-­without-Portfolio James Hsueh (薛承泰) said by telephone that Wu wanted to hear from local governments about the potential impact the proposed revisions would have on their finances, given their already strained budget.

Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said the ministry understood that local governments needed to know more about the proposal before it could be implemented because they would be the ones applying the law.

Chien said government agencies would call a meeting with local governments to determine what changes should be made to the revision and resubmit the revisions to the Cabinet for approval in two weeks.

The Cabinet meeting also approved an amendment to the Sports Lottery Issue Act (運動彩券發行條例) that will increase penalties to prevent match-fixers from fixing game using the sports lottery by setting a minimum fine of NT$5 million.

Also approved was an amendment to the Act Governing International Financial Business (國際金融業務條例) to provide a legal basis by which investment gains made on trading in structured notes through offshore banking units can be taxc-exempt.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LOA IOK-SIN

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