Lawmakers yesterday approved a NT$60 billion (US$1.99 billion) special budget to fund disease prevention efforts, as well as bail out and support sectors affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The budget, planned according to the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Recovery (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例), was passed unanimously in its entirety just 16 days after it was unveiled.
The Legislative Yuan had earlier this month held three joint committee reviews, during which lawmakers agreed to leave the budget intact based on a consensus that disease prevention is the top priority.
Photo: Ann Wang, Reuters
The Ministry of Economic Affairs is to receive the lion’s share of the budget, NT$20.49 billion, which is to cover guarantees for small and medium-sized enterprises that need to take out loans, subsidized loans and coupons redeemable at stores, restaurants and beverage shops, traditional and night markets, and shopping districts.
It is also to use the funds to pay for the expropriation of mask production machinery and the development of new screening kits, support manufacturers developing new technologies and facilitate companies’ efforts to boost their exports.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare would receive NT$16.96 billion, which would go toward the research and development of drugs and vaccines targeting COVID-19; isolation and hospitalization of COVID-19 patients at designated facilities; compensation for medical personnel stationed at quarantine sites, quarantined people and those taking care of quarantined family members; and the procurement of kits, equipment and consumables to test for the novel coronavirus.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications is to receive NT$16.77 billion, which is to be used to bail out operators in the transportation and tourism industries that have been significantly affected by the pandemic, as well as to improve tourist destinations in preparation for plans to attract international tourists after the disease is under control.
The Council of Agriculture is to receive NT$3.56 billion to fund efforts to increase exports of produce, seafood and meat products, as well as to subsidize farmers and fishers.
The Ministry of Culture is to receive NT$800 million, which would be used to support cultural and arts venues, offer discounts when people shop at such venues and hold events to revitalize the arts and cultural sectors.
The budget is not bound by Articles 62 and 63 of the Budget Act (預算法), meaning that the funding can be transferred among agencies.
However, a resolution passed during cross-caucus negotiations on Thursday says that if an interdepartmental transfer of funds would exceed NT$50 million, the concerned agencies should first notify the legislature of the transfer.
Speaking after the passage of the budget, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄) thanked lawmakers across party lines for the swift review of the budget and the flexibility given to the agencies to use the funds.
He expressed gratitude to medical personnel who are on the front line in the fight against the virus, saying he hoped that the budget would lessen their burden as they safeguard public health.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said that while not all agencies had rendered a report on the effects COVID-19 would have on the industries under their jurisdiction, lawmakers gave them the budgets that they had requested.
SAFETY RISK: The government is working to categorize countries based on their COVID-19 cases and prevention efforts, which would determine quarantine periods The government plans to rank countries based on their COVID-19 risks to determine how to treat tourists and other travelers from those nations once Taiwan reopens its borders, but it is still working out the categories, a top health official told lawmakers yesterday. “We would divide countries around the world into several categories. One category would comprise those countries with very few confirmed COVID-19 cases, such as New Zealand and Palau. Travelers from the countries in this category would only need to practice self-health management,” Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told a Legislative Yuan seminar hosted by
China would attack Taiwan if there is no other way of stopping it from becoming independent, Chinese General Li Zuocheng (李作成) said yesterday. Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of China’s “Anti-Secession” Law, Li, who is chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force. The 2005 law is China’s legislative basis for military action against Taiwan. “If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
CASH BOOST: Foreign spouses with residency permits are also eligible for the coupons, which can be bought at post offices or linked to digital payment options Stimulus coupons for Taiwanese and foreign spouses with residency permits can be ordered starting on July 1 and can be used from July 15 to Dec. 31, the Executive Yuan said yesterday. Aimed at boosting domestic spending, the coupons worth NT$3,000 (US$100.04) are to cost NT$1,000. “For our consumers, this is a very good deal as they get three times as much value for their money,” Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told a news conference in Taipei. While the coupons are to have a wide range of uses, including at department stores, restaurants, book stores, night markets, beauty and hair salons, hotels, and to