Ma promises to address concerns about debt ceiling

By Mo Yan-chih  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Nov 25, 2012 - Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday promised to address local governments’ concerns about proposed debt ceiling adjustments, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday.

Hau, who has protested against the Executive Yuan’s proposal to lower the debt ceiling for the city government, expressed concern about its impact on Taipei’s finances while accompanying Ma on a volunteer activity, reiterating that such a cut could cause delays or suspension of major infrastructure projects.

“The Executive Yuan’s proposal will greatly impact Taipei City and I’ve asked the president to help us address the issue. President Ma promised to seek a better understanding of the matter,” he said.

Under the Executive Yuan’s proposed amendment to the Public Debt Act (公共債務法), New Taipei City is expected to see an estimated increase of NT$49.8 billion (US$1.7 billion) in its loan capability, Greater Taichung NT$52.9 billion, Greater Tainan NT$45.4 billion and Greater Kaohsiung NT$23 billion, but Taipei would see a decrease of NT$183.7 billion, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Hau said the debt ceiling cut would put a heavy burden on Taipei’s finances and affect the construction schedules of major city projects, including several MRT lines.

Hau called on the central government to adjust what he called an “unfair” proposal.

Ma said he did not know the details of the proposed amendment, according to Hau, who also said that the president wanted him “not to be worried about it” when discussing the issue with him.

Ma, who also doubles as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman, visited the Mother of God Church yesterday in Taipei’s Tianmu and did volunteer work as part of the celebration activities for the KMT’s 118th anniversary.

Amid continued public outrage over the slow economic recovery and poor government performance, the KMT celebrated its anniversary in low-key style this year, with Ma leading party members to do volunteer work that stresses the party’s efforts to improve the lives of the public.

In his visit to the church, Ma spent time with disabled children and fed them breakfast.

“Taking care of these kids requires patience and more communication. On the party anniversary day, we hope that our volunteer work will inspire more people to share their love and help the disabled, their families and related organizations,” he said.

Before leaving the church, Ma promised to address the debt ceiling issue.

However, local government heads continued to voice concerns about the subsidy cut. Chiayi County Commissioner Helen Chang (張花冠) yesterday criticized the proposal, saying it left cities with less resources to develop, and threatened to join forces with other cities and counties to protest against the proposal if the Executive Yuan failed to make changes to the proposal.

Chang complained that the Executive Yuan only invited the five special municipalities to attend its meeting and ignored the interests of other cities and counties.

“It’s an under-the-table deal that is unfair to the other cities and counties. While the focus is on the five special municipalities, the debt ceiling for other cities and counties would be lowered by NT$86.7 billion,” she said.

Of the current 48 percent debt ceiling, the central government is capped at 40 percent, Taipei at 3.6 percent and Greater Kaohsiung at 1.8 percent, 23 counties and cities at 2 percent, and villages and townships at 0.6 percent.

Chang said under the current regulations, Yilan County, Miaoli County and Hsinchu City have exceeded the debt ceiling, while Yunlin, Nantou, Chiayi, Pingtung and Hualian counties, as well as Keelung City, are approaching the debt limit.

The cities and counties faced the difficult financial situation because the current law is too stringent, and the new proposal would still be disadvantageous for them, she said.

“For the central government, it seems that only special municipalities need development … The victim of the different treatment will not be Taipei City, but those who live in other cities and counties,” she said.