Taiwan’s diplomatic allies have come up with several new cooperative projects that need financial support, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected nearly all of them due to budget shortfalls, according to sources at the government-funded International Cooperation and Development Fund, known as Taiwan ICDF.
Two of those rejected development aid projects were proposed by diplomatic allies in Central and South America, the sources said.
According to Taiwan ICDF records, Taiwan’s cooperative programs with diplomatic allies cover a variety of fields.
For instance, an orchid plantation program was launched in cooperation with a Latin American country, which required more than NT$10 million (US$337,500) annually over a 10-year period. However, the program turned out to be a flop, as it only benefitted 23 farmers.
A 10-year bamboo handicraft development program in another country cost around NT$100 million and benefited only about a dozen farmers there.
Taiwan began to assist the West African country of the Gambia in vegetable and fruit plantation in 1996, but only 3.6 hectares of farmland has since been developed, benefiting just 90 farmers. More than US$1 million was pumped into the project in the past three years alone. It was eventually terminated after the Gambia decided to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan last month.
Taiwan ICDF secretary-general Tao Wen-lung (陶文隆) said many previous aid programs focused on building “Taiwan farms” in Latin American or Caribbean countries.
“Those projects tend to have limited effects and beneficiaries, with production value falling short of 0.1 percent of those countries’ annual agricultural production,” Tao said.
While acknowledging that some aid programs had been closed because of inefficiency or becoming obsolete, Tao said most aid programs are ended only after achieving their original goals.
At the beginning of this year, Taiwan still operated 74 foreign aid programs, but the number will drop to 50 by the end of the year, he said.
Taiwan ICDF has received various development aid applications or technological cooperation proposals, but they have been rejected mostly out of budget considerations, he added.
Among them was a US$30 million plan to establish a satellite image transmission system proposed by a diplomatic ally.
As of the end of last month, 32 Taiwan ICDF officials stationed abroad had returned home due to the end of development aid programs. Twenty-four of them will be reassigned to work in other countries and the remaining eight are to be laid off with their consent, officials say.
Eight more technicians are scheduled to return by the end of this month, when their aid programs conclude.
Ministry officials said recently that despite the termination of diplomatic ties with the Gambia, the government’s three key principles in offering development aid to Taiwan’s diplomatic allies — legitimate goals, legal procedures and effective execution — have remained unchanged.