Tue, Feb 25, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Funding woes threaten Torch Project

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

A project aimed at helping immigrant spouses and their children may be suspended in August after the Legislative Yuan put a new restriction on its funding, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said yesterday, urging the legislature to give the project a stable source of funding.

“The Legislative Yuan has passed a resolution prohibiting the Ministry of the Interior from funding the Torch Project this year with money from the immigrant spouse fund, which means that we will be forced to suspend the project by August if we cannot find a new source of funding,” Lee said.

“Without the money, we will not be able to provide language-learning materials for migrant spouses and their children and we will not be able to provide assistance with family needs and employment,” the minister said.

The interior ministry and the Ministry of Education founded the Torch Project more than two years ago, with NT$160 million (US$5.2 million) of its annual budget coming from the interior ministry and NT$40 million from the education ministry, to provide support for the development of language skills, family consultations, employment and cultural exchanges, Lee said.

“There are 480,000 immigrant spouses in the nation, who have 230,000 children. By 2030, as many as 13.5 percent of 25-year-olds will be children of immigrant spouses,” he said. “Therefore it is very important for us to invest in these children.”

As many as 1,974 elementary, junior-high and senior-high schools could use help from the Torch Project, but with a budget of just NT$200 million, “we can only help less than 400 elementary schools and we may be forced to stop the project completely without funding,” he said.

The legislature barred the ministry from using the immigrant spouse fund, because lawmakers wanted a more stable and sustainable source of money for the Torch Project, but the situation is critical, he said.

Lee said he has spoken to the education ministry, but officials there are reluctant to take over full sponsorship of the program, while other government officials are not very interested in the project because many immigrant spouses are not voters, either because they are ineligible or they are reluctant to vote.

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