Auditor-General Lin Ching-long (林慶隆) yesterday called on the government to increase the transparency surrounding the country’s public debt situation and refrain from bypassing debt regulations by taking out special loans.
Lin made the comments while presenting to the legislature the findings of an audit of the government’s budget enforcement for last year including projects to expand investment in public works and flood prevention projects carried out during that period.
During a question-and-answer session, Lin agreed with a proposal by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Daniel Hwang (黃義交) that the lack of information disclosed about the country’s debt situation should be addressed.
At the end of last year, the nation’s debt stood at NT$4.735 trillion (US$155.44 billion), close to its ceiling of 40 percent of the average GNP for the preceding three years as stipulated in Public Debt Act (公共債務法).
Citing academic studies, Hwang said the national debt could be as high as NT$1.9 trillion if hidden liabilities and potential debts were included, which would amount to 155 percent of the average GNP.
Admitting the problem, Lin said debt regulations used by the government were not in line with international standards and failed to reveal the nation’s true debt position.
However, KMT Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆) said Taiwan was “doing fine” in comparison with Japan, the US and some European counties.
Lai said the audit office should pay more attention when it examined government spending from special loans, which are not subject to the 40 percent borrowing limitation, a position that Lin supported.
Lin told KMT Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) he did not think the goal set by Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to cut the nation’s deficit in half within four years and to balance revenues and expenditures within eight years could be achieved.
Judging from the nation’s current fiscal position, it would already be tough for the government to balance annual expenditures with revenues, Lin said.