Mon, Oct 02, 2017 - Page 3 News List

DPP lawmakers hit southbound policy spending

IMPLEMENTATION:The lawmakers spoke after a report by the legislature’s Budget Center pointed out that much of the bugeted funding has not been used

By Peng Wan-hsing  /  Staff reporter

The government’s use of its budget for the New Southbound Policy was unsatisfactory this year, and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers have called for a task force to improve implementation efficiency next year.

An analysis by the legislature’s Budget Center said that of the NT$4.5 billion (US$148.49 million) budgeted for the policy this fiscal year, only about NT$2.55 billion, or 56.3 percent, had been spent by the end of July, while a few agencies had spent more than half their budgets for the policy, which aims to boost the nation’s ties with South and Southeast Asian nations as well as Australia and New Zealand.

A budget of NT$7.19 billion has been earmarked for the policy for the next fiscal year, a 61.6 percent increase over this year.

The center’s analysis of the implementation of the policy covers its four major areas of focus: economic cooperation, talent exchange, resource sharing and regional connectivity.

Only the Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Environmental Protection Administration and the Ministry of Science and Technology spent more than half of their related budgets, while the performance of 14 other government bodies was unsatisfactory, the center said.

The Ministry of the Interior, the Presidential Office and the Public Construction Commission had the lowest budget execution rates: 0.51 percent, 3.49 percent and 4.27 percent respectively, the center said.

DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said many of the projects connected with the southbound policy were still under way, as the policy was only launched this year, and full-fledged implementation would begin next year.

As the budget is distributed across different ministries, the Executive Yuan or coordinating agencies such as the National Development Council should form an inter-ministerial task force to supervise how Cabinet agencies and ministries are spending their funds, Lo said.

“The New Southbound Policy cannot achieve tangible results if there is only a budget without implementation,” DPP Legislator Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said, calling on the Cabinet to make improvements and the Legislative Yuan to supervise the use of the budgeted funds.

The low budget implementation is a “warning sign,” DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said, adding that the policy’s execution cannot be compromised as it is key to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) plans.

However, there is no need to establish an additional supervisory unit as Minister Without Portfolio John Deng (鄧振中) is the “chief executive officer” of the policy and he should be supervising it and be responsible for its implementation, Tsai Shih-ying said.

In related news, the Cabinet next year is to evaluate the feasibility of lifting visa restrictions for partner nations of the New Southbound Policy next year, after the government on Thursday said it would ease visa restrictions on Philippine nationals entering the nation by allowing them to visit for a maximum of 14 days without a visa.

Deng said the general policy direction is to lift visa restrictions if there are no security concerns.

Safety is key to any visa-waiver program, and safety concerns include the risk of public safety threats, crime and drug trafficking, unnamed Cabinet officials said.

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