Fri, Jan 17, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers agree to NT$24.6bn cut to budget proposal

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Legislators yesterday agreed to cut NT$24.6 billion (US$821.23 million), or 1.17 percent, from this year’s proposed NT$2.1 trillion general budget.

The Legislative Yuan is holding an extraordinary session to review the budget and yesterday called a round of cross-caucus negotiations to discuss how much it should be trimmed.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) whip William Tseng (曾銘宗) suggested a 1.19 percent cut, or about NT$25 billion, as legislators did for the previous fiscal year.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said that a reduction of NT$24.5 billion would be enough.

The two men started to haggle over the amount, leading Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) to step in to mediate.

Su suggested a NT$24.6 billion reduction, or 1.17 percent, and Tseng agreed.

While discussing which budget items to trim, Tseng took issue with funds earmarked by central government agencies for the promotion of policies and for officials to visit China, accusing the DPP of using the funds to pay an “Internet army” to smear the KMT in the run-up to the recent elections.

Officials had recommended trimming 5 percent of the policy promotion budget, but Tseng said that 80 percent should be cut, as the elections are over.

Since the DPP became the ruling party, cross-strait exchanges have come to a halt, so a 10 percent reduction in the budget for official visits to China is too small, and a 90 percent reduction would not be too much, he said.

DPP caucus director-general Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that a team of experts sent by the government visited Wuhan, China, to learn about an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in 2019.

Beijing would not reject requests from Taipei to send officials to China if they traveled there for disaster relief or disease prevention, Kuan said, adding that policy promotions include raising awareness about disease prevention.

The four caucuses eventually agreed on a 40 percent reduction, or NT$25.2 million, in allocations for official visits to China and a 15 percent reduction, or NT$141 million, in allocations for policy promotions.

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