A survey released by the Taipei Research, Development and Evaluation Commission yesterday showed that 57 percent of Taipei residents support the city’s policy canceling the Double Ninth Festival cash gift for older citizens.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) in 2015 stopped the annual practice of giving out the gift, which made Taipei the only local government in the nation not to do so and sparked complaints from many older residents.
Previously, all residents older than 65, as well as Aboriginal residents older than 55, would receive a gift of NT$1,500 to NT$10,000 (US$47 to US$317 at the current exchange rate) depending on their age, which cost the city about NT$800 million per year.
Now, only older residents from low to lower-middle income families receive NT$1,500 and those older than 99 receive NT$10,000, adding up to an expense of about NT$30 million per year.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei city councilors last week proposed reinstating the holiday gift.
The commission said that its survey, conducted from Monday to Thursday last week, showed that 57 percent of respondents supported canceling the gift, while 28 percent were against it.
However, more than 80 percent of people in their 20s supported the policy, while 36.3 percent of people aged 65 to 69 supported it.
Of all respondents, 60.4 percent agreed that the budget previously allocated to the gift should be spent on elderly welfare programs, while 31.2 percent said that older residents deserve the gift, as it symbolizes respect.
Regarding how money should be spent on elderly welfare, 33 percent chose healthcare services as the top priority, 13.7 percent chose long-term care services and 10.5 percent chose daycare services.
The city’s budget is limited, so if nearly NT$800 million was given out in just one day, the city council would have to decide which aspects of the city’s budget should be trimmed, Ko said in an interview on Tuesday night.
The reality is that the city still owes about NT$93.8 billion, he said.
“No sociologist or public administration specialist would support giving out the annual cash gift, but it is very effective in soliciting votes,” Ko said, adding that he thinks it is unreasonable to give each senior resident, no matter how wealthy or poor, the same amount.
Spending money on subsidizing older residents who cannot afford National Health Insurance (NHI) monthly premiums, would be more effective than giving each of them NT$1,500 and not caring about how they spend it, Ko said.
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