Social welfare organizations yesterday blasted the government for allocating NT$3.2 billion (US$105 million) toward next year’s celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC), while the budget allocations for children women and the disabled have been cut drastically, by 20 percent to 60 percent.
The groups said the government had sacrificed the welfare of disadvantaged groups to be able to put on a lavish celebration by putting every ministry under pressure to cut their budgets.
Wang Jung-chang (王榮璋), convener of the Alliance for Fair Tax Reform (AFTR), said the budget allocation for social welfare expenditure for next year was NT$346.8 billion.
At first glance, the budget -appeared to have increased by NT$22.1 billion from this year’s budget. However, he added that 71.7 percent of this money has been allocated to pay for the increase in health insurance premiums and a great increase in the government’s subsidy burden.
According to Wang, 26.7 percent of the budget allocation goes to the national pension system, employment insurance, the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) employment fund and to assist cross-strait medical services such as the Kinmen Medical Building and the Hsinchu Biomedical Center.
“This means that 98.4 percent of the budget increase for social welfare expenditure is going to these plans, while overall social welfare expenditure remains unchanged, and several items experiencing sharp reductions,” he said.
Next year’s integrated budget for the Federation for the Welfare of the Elderly, Taiwan Women’s Link, Taiwan Alliance for the Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare, the Eden Social Welfare Foundation and the Alliance for the Disabled shows that the budget for home-based services and community services for the physically and mentally disabled has been cut by 60 percent.
The budgets for disaster relief and condolence expenses have also been cut by 45 percent, while the budgets for protection of young people and psychological counseling have been cut by one-third and the budgets for prevention and guidance for women and youth have been cut by one-fifth.
Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲), -secretary-general of the Alliance for the Disabled, said the government often talks about understanding the hardships of the common person, but when faced with the -increasing wealth gap, the rapid increase in low income households and the continuing high real unemployment rate, it chooses to cut expenditure for next year.
“This is not a government that understands the hardships of the common man,” she said.
On Wednesday, the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee passed a preliminary review of the Council for Cultural Affairs’ budget for the centennial celebrations — after the request was trimmed by 2 percent.
The committee approved the council’s request for NT$1.9 billion after cutting out NT$38 million and freezing another NT$100 million.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the scale of the cuts, accusing the council of failing to explain its budget request in detail.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), whose proposal to first cut the budget by NT$1 billion and then freeze about half of the remaining money was rejected by the committee, told a press conference afterward that the government’s total budget request for the ROC’s centennial celebrations amounted to about NT$3 billion.
“Is this how the government is spending money?” Kuan asked.
She alleged that a big portion of the council’s request would go to subsidize performances by large troupes instead of being evenly distributed among troupes of varying sizes.
However, Council for Cultural Affairs Minister Emile Sheng (盛治仁) said the NT$1.9 billion will be spent on about 100 events.
“We will provide NT$150 million in subsidies for the New Year concert and NT$200 million for [next year’s] National Day evening rally,” Sheng said. “We have tried our best to be frugal.”
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