Sun, Sep 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Ministry, council budgets said to exceed NT$1.5bn

PRESSURE EXPECTED:The leaders of overseas compatriot communities say when funding is made public, there would be repercussions, a source said

By Lee Hsin-fang and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Community Affairs Council have proposed classified budgets for next year exceeding NT$1.5 billion and NT$100 million (US$48.81 million and US$3.25 million) respectively, an unnamed government official familiar with the matter said.

The diplomatic situation is “difficult,” and the classified budget was created by the ministry to secure the nation’s diplomatic allies, the source said.

It includes loans allies need for infrastructure, as well as funding for cooperative projects and other items, the source said.

Due to China’s efforts to suppress Taiwan’s international space, President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has lost five diplomatic allies since she took office in May 2016.

The ministry has proposed a classified budget for next year of NT$1.5581 billion, the source said.

Although that is NT$7.627 million less than this year’s classified budget, it will be the second consecutive year that the ministry’s classified budget has exceeded NT$1.5 billion, the source said.

Its classified budget last year was NT$442.487 million, the source added.

The council has designated NT$102.888 million for classified spending next year, the source said.

Classified spending would make up about 7.84 percent of the council’s proposed overall budget of NT$1.312881 billion next year, according its proposal, the source said.

The council’s classified budget would be used to provide subsidies and grants to overseas compatriot communities and overseas Taiwanese businesses, the source said.

As the subsidies the council has given to overseas compatriot communities in previous years have involved national interests, to maintain harmony among them and resist China’s “united front” tactics, the council has been unable to publish the details of this spending online, the source said.

Many leaders of overseas compatriot communities are worried that once funding details are made public, they would come under pressure, the source added.

However, many have accused the council of a lack of transparency, local media has reported.

Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) said that the council last year began designating its subsidies to overseas compatriot communities as classified spending at the request of the legislature.

Meanwhile, the ministry is expected to invest a large portion of its classified spending, nearly NT$670 million, in West Asia and Africa next year, a nearly NT$400 million, or 59 percent, increase from this year, its budget proposal showed.

Since the nation only has one remaining diplomatic ally in Africa, Eswatini, apart from boosting diplomatic relations in Africa, the ministry also plans to use the increased funding to work on relations with non-diplomatic allies in Africa, the ministry said in its proposal.

The ministry has also allocated about NT$290 million — an increase of about NT$79 million from last year — to investments in the Asia-Pacific region, where several of the nation’s diplomatic allies are, its budget proposal showed.

The ministry said it is to continue its efforts to push for mutual visits and exchanges between top-level officials from the nation and its diplomatic allies to deepen ties among them.

It will also seek to address the needs of its diplomatic allies in social and economic development, pushing for bilateral and multilateral cooperative projects under a principle of mutual cooperation, the ministry said.

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