Lawmakers across party lines yesterday called into question the promotional budget of about NT$60 million (US$2.04 million) proposed by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) for next year, urging that the budget be slashed in light of the weak results it has generated in the past.
Several legislative committees yesterday commenced reviewing the budget statements presented by various government departments for the next fiscal year, amid widespread public discontent and calls for the government and the public sector to economize.
Citing as an example the council’s series of policy promotion events held at temples nationwide, Internal Administration Committee member Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said such campaigns cost a lot of money, but draw too few people.
“I checked out one of these events, which cost NT$140,000 each on average, and found only four locals were present. By contrast, each of the policy explanation seminars I staged [in my capacity as legislator] attracted about 1,000 attendees, and a cost of up to NT$50,000,” Chang said.
KMT Legislator Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) accused the council of being evasive abouts its unpopular propaganda events.
“I made a detour to participate in one of these activities, and found that no passers-by showed any interest whatsoever. However, the council blamed bad weather that day for the indifferent response,” Chen said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) said the council’s tourism promotional brochures, which depict Taiwan’s democracy and political developments in a shallow and trivial manner, were detrimental to the country as they sent a negative impression to Chinese tourists that “Taiwan’s democratic politics are deplorable.”
Tuan was referring to the council’s recently-printed travel brochures, entitled Taiwan Lohas (台客行), which equate the nation’s democratic politics with endless battles to gain popularity.
The publications also said the prevalence of “democracy pork knuckles” (民主豬腳), scantily dressed girls and blue-and-white slippers in election campaigns shows that the country’s politics have “shaken off their sadness and are treading an inevitable road that leads to entertainment orientation and consumerism.”
“Democracy pork knuckles” was a name invented in 1988 by a pork knuckles vendor from then-Kaohsiung county, who often set up his stall beside political gatherings and peddled his popular food to participants.
“In addition, the council printed 5,000 Lunar New Year scrolls, customized 8,000 key chains and gave out 6,000 notebooks last year alone. How could these items be of any help to the council in promoting policy? Is it a drug-selling company?” Tuan said.
Tuan said the council ostensibly prized its popularity among the people above acquainting them with government policies, as was highlighted by the large sum of money it lavished on advertisements.
Singling out the council’s official Facebook page, DPP legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) said while the council spent more than NT$5 million a year managing the page, which has amassed about 127,000 Facebook fans, each of its posted messages only generate 45 “likes” at most.
“As such, the council’s budget should be cut,” Yao added.
Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) acknowledged during a question-and-answer session that some of the wording in the council’s tourism brochures did leave room for improvement.
“However, Internet promotions have become a trend that can no longer be ignored. It would be unfair if the council missed out on that channel of online promotions when engaging in propaganda,” Wang said.