Thu, Dec 23, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Smaller counties criticize financial reform

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff reporter

Yunlin County is close to being unable to pay either the salaries or year-end bonuses of its 100,000 public servants.

Yilan County has a NT$20 billion (US$669.8 million) debt that is not getting any smaller, while Chiayi County has a NT$3 billion deficit it has not been able to reduce this year.

Those were the stories told by county commissioners as they met in Taipei yesterday, concerned that local counties will be neglected in a large financial restructuring bill aimed at diverting more funds to the four new special municipalities.

“It almost seems fair — determining the amount of government subsidies based on ... population and size, but for counties that are sparsely populated, what it will create is a financial [black hole],” Pingtung County Commissioner Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻) said.

The special municipalities are to be given significantly more annual funding by the central government. Taipei County, Taichung and Tainan will be upgraded on Saturday, the same day that existing special municipality Kaohsiung is to be merged with neighboring Kaohsiung County.

In the case of Taipei County, Ministry of Finance documents show that it is set to receive NT$46.6 billion in subsidies next year, compared with the NT$23.8 billion it received in 2007. The figure includes a second one-time payment of NT$10 billion associated with the upgrade.

“At the same time that [a special municipality] is focused on how to implement a new luxury tax ... all we are worried about is how we are going to survive past tomorrow,” Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) told a press conference at the legislature.

Earlier in the morning, four commissioners of DPP administered counties, including Yilan’s Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) and Yunlin’s Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬), met with Minister of Finance Lee Sush-der (李述德) to discuss the proposed changes to the Act Governing the Allocation of Government Revenues and Expenditures (財政收支劃分法).

Under the tabled revision, special municipalities are set to receive 61 percent of the money set aside by the central government, up from 43 percent and roughly proportionate with their share of the population.

At the same time, the share given to counties and local municipalities will fall to 24 percent from 39 percent — a figure that the county commissioners yesterday want revised upward.

However, Lee said he believed the bill would be sufficient to help the long-term development targets of local counties. He suggested that local government cut spending, saying that local government debts have been a problem for the past few years.

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