Ministry of Foreign Affairs slashes diplomacy budget

MONEY MATTERS::The budget provides funding for diplomatic efforts, but a lawmaker said little was being allocated to joining international agencies

By Su Yung-yao and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 - Page 3

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has cut its classified foreign affairs budget for the next fiscal year to its lowest level in recent years, with the majority of funding earmarked for diplomatic efforts in Central and South America, where Taiwan already has several diplomatic allies.

According to the budget statement tendered by the ministry to the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, the classified foreign affairs budget has been reduced by 46 percent, from NT$1.66 billion (US$56.6 million) this fiscal year to NT$908 million next year.

The actual budget will be reduced to NT$896 million if loans and interest subsidies are factored in.

The classified foreign affairs budget is intended to give diplomatic personnel more room and flexibility in furthering the nation’s bilateral and multilateral interactions with other countries. As such, allocation of the budget offers a glimpse of the government’s diplomatic priorities and where it will be focused on for the foreseeable future.

A member of the legislative committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the budget was broken down as follows: NT$88 million was allocated to facilitating bilateral and multilateral ties with nations in the Asia-Pacific region, NT$274 million for countries in West Asia and Africa, NT$11 million for Europe, NT$57 million for North America and NT$445 million for Latin America.

Of Taiwan’s 23 diplomatic allies, 12 are Latin American, including the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Guatemala.

While President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has vowed to push for Taiwan’s participation in more international organizations, the ministry has appropriated just NT$20 million for “promotion and reinforcement of Taiwan’s participation in UN and intergovernmental organizations.”

“Not much can be achieved with such a negligible budget,” the lawmaker said.

According to the budget statement, the NT$20 million will be used to request countries who have diplomatic relations with or are friendly to Taiwan to help the nation build connections in the international community and lobby for its membership in organizations such as the UN and the WHO.