The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus said yesterday it would invite Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) to brief the legislature on the Cabinet’s post-Morakot reconstruction plan tomorrow, but the idea was rejected by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus during cross-party negotiations.
The Central Emergency Operation Center (CEOC) at 6pm yesterday also revised the death toll from Typhoon Morakot to 461 dead, 192 missing and 46 injured.
The sharp increase came after the center decided to include the 318 people presumed dead from Siaolin Village (小林) in Kaohsiung County’s Jiasian Township (甲仙).
Earlier yesterday at the DPP caucus meeting, DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) had proposed inviting the premier.
Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), head of the DPP Policy Research Committee, said Liu had proven himself incompetent during the disaster relief, adding: “If he doesn’t come, then he can stay out of [the legislature] forever.”
However, the KMT opposed the idea, with KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) saying no premiers in the nation's history had ever briefed the legislature on a single proposed statute.
Liu would still need to report to the legislature and answer questions after the Cabinet detailed its special budget for reconstruction, Lin said.
DPP caucus whip Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) said the DPP regretted the KMT’s refusal to invite the premier but it would not boycott reviews of the Cabinet's special post-typhoon reconstruction proposal.
Meanwhile, legislators have yet to agree on how much should be spent on reconstruction.
The Cabinet finalized the central government budget for the next fiscal year at its weekly meeting last Thursday and suggested seeking a NT$447 billion (US$13.5 billion) loan to provide the money needed for the estimated NT$100 billion needed for post-Morakot reconstruction and other spending.
The DPP wants a minimum of NT$200 billion for reconstruction.
“We have no problems with the government's NT$100 billion budget request ... We are just afraid the central government would give [typhoon-stricken] cities and counties less money because they are governed by the DPP,” Wang said.
Therefore, we hope the budget would exceed NT$200 billion, equal to the budget for reconstruction after the 921 Earthquake,” Wang said.
But Lin said there should be a reasonable rationale if the legislature were to increase the reconstruction budget.
Meanwhile outside the legislature, a number of civil groups criticized the government for trying to push the Morakot-rebuilding plan through by tomorrow, complaining that no typhoon victims had been invited to the Cabinet's Post-Typhoon Morakot Reconstruction Committee's meetings.
Green Party Taiwan Secretary-General Pan Han-shen (潘翰聲) said the government failed to hold any public hearing before the Executive Yuan approved its proposed statute.
Pan said the various versions proposed by the Cabinet, the KMT and the DPP all focused on how to distribute the NT$100 billion budget but failed to address the liability of government agencies in charge of water resources.
Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Tsai Chih-hsun (蔡季勳) said legislators should hold the extraordinary plenary sessions in the disaster-hit areas
to hear from Aboriginal communities hurt by the typhoon.
Meanwhile, with the deadline set by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to produce an initial post-disaster reconstruction and victim resettlement in mind, the Cabinet said yesterday that Liu will move down south to speed up the pace of the work.
Liu and senior Cabinet officials from 12 agencies will stay in the disaster zone for one week, starting today, to “exchanges ideas with victims face to face” and “pick up the pace of rebuilding homes,” Executive Yuan Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said.
Liu’s popularity dropped to a record low of 11 percent in a survey conducted by local cable station TVBS last weekend, from a 13 percent rating in an Aug. 18 survey.
On a visit to typhoon disaster zones last Friday, Ma said that the government has to make initial progress in reconstruction work within one month of Morakot hitting Taiwan on Aug. 8. He has also previously said that any decision on a Cabinet reshuffle would be made by early next month.
Liu and his Cabinet members will live in a military camp in Cishan Township (旗山), Kaohsiung County, where the Executive Yuan has a disaster-relief command center, Su said.
“Staying in southern Taiwan is a more efficient way to communicate with victims about their needs, with local governments about reconstruction work and on better responses and on procedures to evacuate people living in unsafe places,” Su said.
In related news, Liu yesterday approved a Ministry of Finance proposal for state-owned banks to write off mortgage payments of people whose land and houses were swept away by the floods.
The ministry said 297 households lost their homes and land and 260 of them had mortgages from state-owned banks.
Su said that the government hoped private banks would follow suit and it might earmark a budget to compensate those banks for their losses.
Farm and fishing associations will also write off loans victims took out using fish farms and facilities as security if the farms were washed away.
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