The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday exchanged barbs over the former’s plan to finance flood control projects with a special budget originally intended to stimulate domestic demand.
The Executive Yuan yesterday insisted on diverting part of the funds to flood prevention despite DPP lawmakers’ reservations about the legality of the budget appropriation.
The legislature last week approved the Cabinet’s budget request of NT$130 billion (US$4.3 billion) tagged for spurring economic expansion, NT$58.35 billion of which would be allocated to 25 local governments for construction projects.
PHOTO: LIAO SHU-LING, TAIPEI TIMES
Following the recent flooding in central and southern Taiwan caused by Tropical Storm Kalmaegi, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) decided in a Cabinet meeting on Monday night that NT$41.364 billion, or 70 percent of the NT$58.349 billion, would be used for projects related to flood prevention.
The plan drew criticism from the DPP caucus, which said the Executive Yuan should either refer a motion to the legislature to reconsider the passed budget or seek a declaration of a state of emergency from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) before appropriating the funds.
At a press meeting yesterday morning, Shih Su-mei (石素梅), head of the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, dismissed the DPP caucus’ suggestion. She cited Article 43 of the Disaster Prevention and Response Act (災害防救法), saying that the article entitled the government to make adjustments to the state budget in the event of a disaster.
PHOTO: HSIEH YIN-CHONG, TAIPEI TIMES
The DPP caucus cited Article 62 of the Budget Law (預算法), which prevents the diversion of public funds among different governmental agencies and for different purposes.
But Shih said that Article 43 of the Disaster Prevention and Response Act stipulates that all levels of governments shall not be subject to Article 62 of the Budget Law if the budget initially allocated for disaster relief is not enough to handle a disaster.
Later yesterday, Shih tried to play down the controversy surrounding the issue, saying that money needed for flood prevention projects would first be drawn from the “eight-year, NT$116 billion flood prevention and water management plan.”
The legislature approved the NT$116 billion budget in 2006 for the government to launch an eight-year, three-stage program to help prevent flooding in high-risk areas that included 1,150km² in central and southern Taiwan.
The Water Resource Agency said the first stage of the plan would be 90 percent completed by the end of this year, the second stage — budgeted at NT$44.5 billion — was scheduled for completion between this year and 2010, and the third stage would take place between 2011 and 2013.
As the second stage of the eight-year plan has already begun, the government would complete the projects for the second stage ahead of schedule and would appropriate more money for flood prevention projects from the economic expansion plan when necessary, Shih said.
At a separate setting, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said that if the Cabinet wanted to adjust the special budget, it should ask the legislature to call a special session to reconsider the budget bill.
The DPP caucus would refer Cabinet officials to the Control Yuan for investigation and possible impeachment if the Cabinet insisted on going ahead with the plan, he said.
Tsai said the latest move by the Cabinet showed that Liu was lying when he said it was “urgent and necessary” for the country to promote various projects to boost domestic demand.
The move also proved the so-called domestic demand-boosting projects were nothing but porkbarrel projects, he said.
DPP Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said it was inconceivable that the KMT government was now accusing the former DPP administration of failing to improve the country’s flood prevention facilities.
It was the KMT that had delayed an eight-year flood prevention package put forth by the DPP administration, Lin said.
Because the budget for the package was only passed in 2006, after being proposed by the DPP administration in mid-2005, many flood prevention projects financed by the package were still in their initial stages as of June this year, she said.
KMT caucus secretary-general Chang Sho-wen (張碩文), on the other hand, urged the public to give the Cabinet credit for shouldering the responsibility and taking action to prevent flooding.
Saying that the Cabinet’s plan to spend the budget reserved for boosting domestic demand on flood prevention was legitimate, Chang urged the DPP caucus to throw support behind the Executive Yuan.
Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) also dismissed a DPP caucus suggestion that the Executive Yuan should ask the legislature to reconsider the government’s special budget.
“I believe it would be inappropriate because proposing reconsideration [of the domestic demand budget proposal] would only impede the nation’s ongoing infrastructure construction projects,” he said.
Additional reporting by Flora Wang, Rich Chang and CNA
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