A significant increase in government rewards and subsidies over the past seven years since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May 2008 has recently been called into question by lawmakers, who said the increased funds could become the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) most powerful bargaining chip in the campaign for next year’s legislative and presidential elections.
The so-called “government rewards and subsidies” can be allocated to local governments, civic organizations, private schools and individuals, as well for the purposes of compensation, rewards and consolation.
According to budget statistics, the central government’s total budget increased by 16 percent, or NT$273 billion (US$8.72 billion), from NT$1.69 trillion in 2008 to NT$1.96 trillion this year. A larger rise has been observed in its reward and subsidy funding, from NT$701 billion to NT$978.2 billion during the same period, up 40 percent, or NT$277.2 billion.
Meanwhile, the final accounts of the local government bodies between 2011 and 2013 decreased from its peak of NT$496.4 billion to NT$462.8 billion, while the subsidies for organizations and individuals increased from NT$398.6 billion to NT$464.3 billion during the same period, accounting for 45 percent and 50 percent of the total reward and subsidy fund respectively.
The subsidy fund is considered by critics as a “secret purse” of the government, given that former premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) pledged to allocate more than NT$300 million from the fund for public infrastructure when campaigning for KMT members competing in last year’s nine-in-one local elections.
Jiang’s pledges were rebuffed by some academics as a form of vote-buying at the time.
A Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was a link between the increased subsidies and Jiang’s campaign promises.
Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Cheng-chang (賴振昌) said in addition to the subsidy fund, the government’s income from a tobacco health and welfare surcharge has become “certain people’s campaign funds.”
“The surcharge was used multiple times to print lunar calendars and a gourmet guidebook for former KMT legislator Hou Tsai-feng (侯彩鳳), which also included photographs of Ma. Health Promotion Administration Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) also drew from the surcharge to run personal advertisements last year, when she was running for Yilan County commissionership,” Lai said.
A local government official in charge of agriculture, who requested anonymity, said the allocation of the reward and subsidy fund was mostly politically motivated, as evidenced by the fact that most of the local governments that received the subsidies were located on the north side of the Jhuoshuei River (濁水溪) — areas traditionally considered KMT strongholds.
“The government should stipulate a basic or subsidy law to avoid expenditure waste caused by the government’s unrestrained administrative discretion,” Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology’s associate professor Lo Cheng-chung (羅承宗) said.
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