More people receiving aid
An additional 330,000 people have gained access to financial aid from the government over the past 18 months, the Ministry of the Interior said yesterday. The new beneficiaries include 75,742 people from low-income households and 262,562 people from near-poor families, according to statistics compiled by the ministry’s Department of Social Affairs. In total, 614,432 people, from 224,018 households, are now eligible for public assistance, accounting for 2.63 percent of the population, up from 1.19 percent in June 2011, the month before the amended Public Assistance Act (社會救助法) was implemented. Under the revised act, the poverty line was raised, assistance was expanded to near-poor households (families whose average income is less than 1.5 times the minimum cost of living), and eligibility requirements for aid were eased. According to the ministry, 11.93 percent of the nation’s citizens are now covered by welfare programs, demonstrating that most economically disadvantaged people have access to aid.
Bureau mulls hotel plan
The Tourism Bureau said yesterday it is considering requiring members of Chinese tour groups in Taiwan to stay at a star-rated hotel for at least one night, in an effort to improve their accommodation experience. The plan, which could take effect in April, is aimed at discouraging popular low-budget tours that provide poor quality accommodation, the bureau said. In the initial stages of the plan, the accommodation requirements would not be mandatory, but travel agencies that book star-rated hotels will find it easier to obtain government approval for their tours, it said. The bureau also announced plans to limit the number of shopping trips and the time allocated for them in group tours for Chinese tourists.
Subsidies to be reviewed
Executive Yuan officials said a cross-agency task force will be formed to review the pros and cons of the existing “national travel card” subsidy program and a decision on the program’s fate is to be made by the end of the year. The program was launched in 2003 as part of government efforts to revitalize the local tourism industry, which was one of the sectors hardest hit by the deadly Sept. 21, 1999, earthquake. The government has spent about NT$7 billion (US$240.55 million) financing the program for public-sector employees, under which civil servants can receive a maximum NT$16,000 in domestic travel subsidy a year. As the program has experienced some irregularities, many critics have been pushing for its abolishment.
Military boosts airport plan
The military has agreed to give up some of the land it occupies at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) in support of the government’s airport expansion plan, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said yesterday. The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) achieved its goal of positioning the airport as a hub for domestic, northeast Asian and cross-Taiwan Strait flights last year, Mao said, adding that the CAA will now work with the Taipei City Government to develop the land near the airport. According to the expansion program proposed by the CAA, the government is planning to invest between NT$30 billion and NT$40 billion to build a five-hectare commercial area around the airport. The project has attracted significant interest from local firms and investors, Mao said.